Review: ‘Casanova, Last Love’ fails to illuminate the notorious wooer of women’s appeal
“Casanova, Last Love,” which looks at the famed 18th century philanderer’s infatuation with the supposed “one true love of his life,” is a dull and uninvolving portrait that, despite its sumptuous settings and costumes, never takes flight.
According to the film’s press notes, director Benoît Jacquot (“Farewell, My Queen,” “3 Hearts”) sees Giacomo Casanova as a lover of womankind — a sort of “anti-Don Juan” who was as concerned with female friendship as he was with his partner’s pleasure. Unfortunately, in the movie, he comes off as a compulsive, untethered, charisma-free narcissist. If Jacquot or his co-writers, Chantal Thomas and Jérôme Beaujour, think this legendary rogue echoes any kind of modern man worth relating to or revisiting today, they’re off by a few hundred years. The story, based in part on Casanova’s memoir “Histoire de ma vie,” opens in 1793 and finds the Italian adventurer, played by the sad-eyed and woefully miscast Vincent Lindon (“The Moustache,” “The Measure of a Man”), flashing back 30 years to his time spent in exile in London. He lived there after escaping a Venice prison and becoming persona non grata in Paris. (No stranger to scandal, excessive gambling, penury, deception, shattering norms and more, the guy was often in hot water.)
With only a few friends and contacts (including renowned opera singer La Cornelys, played by Valeria Golino), Casanova works his way into London’s social circles and his share of louche activity, including a string of sexual trysts — paid for and otherwise. He’s presented as being catnip to women, partly because of his amorous reputation and storied charm, though in the hands of Lindon and Jacquot, his appeal is murky.
But the womanizer meets his Waterloo when he becomes obsessed with Marianne de Charpillon (Stacy Martin), a pretty, manipulative young prostitute with an abusive mother (Anna Cottis). Marianne, or “La Charpillon,” toys with Casanova’s affections and withholds sex, only to request he submit to a chaste, two-week “engagement” of sorts to earn the honor of consummating their relationship. He acquiesces, but it’s ill-fated and all goes nowhere — taking the movie down with it.
The result is an unsatisfying, at times head-scratching romantic drama, one short on credible passion, heat and emotional depth. The film also lacks sufficient context and history about Casanova to fully clarify — and justify — his dubious actions and attitude.
Best to kiss this one off.
'Casanova, Last Love'
In French and English with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Starts July 14, Laemmle Royal Theatre, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena
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