Thursday, December 29, 2005


Before I start, it should be known that NDT is living proof of the fact that "opposites attract". One of the biggest ways in which my significant other and I differ is the fact that he is a huge film buff and I am......not.

Trust me, there are several reasons. Aside from being unable to sit still for more than two hours without going to sleep, doing it in dark, noisy theaters with chattering cellphone users, sticky floors, and seats that make coach class airline travel seem luxurious -- while paying double-digit sums for the privilege -- offends my sensibilities on several levels. Add to that a disdain for what I see as American cinema's current replacement of good writing and cinematography with cusswords, nakedness, and car chases, and you can understand why my going to the movies is a noteworthy event.

Which is why I was so blown away by Casanova.

Like a lavish holiday buffet, the movie unfolds before your eyes, an aesthetic masterpiece and feast for each of your senses, each piece and portion a delicious part of the whole. At the center, Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain) and Sienna Miller (Alfie) smoulder as the paired entree of infamous rake and lover Casanova and the fiery nonconformist Francesca, the one woman who Casanova cannot have, but without whom he will not live. Despite hardly showing any skin (indeed, the closest Miller gets is a low-cut dress), both stars radiate pure erotic energy, pulling you inexorably to the screen to drink in each of their forms and features. Be wary of gay men and heterosexual women stampeding to take a lick at Ledger.

Serving as delectable sides are Lena Olin (Chocolat) as Andrea, Francesca's scheming, sensual mother; Oliver Platt ("West Wing"'s White House Counsel Oliver Babish) as Francesca's clueless, wealthy fiance and lard magnate (one of the movie's most hilarious running gags) Paprizzio; and the richest dish of all, Jeremy Irons ( Kingdom of Heaven), whose Instigator Pucci is a triumphal masterpiece, parody of his previous roles without camp, a perfect balance of heavy and hilarity. Other treats are Iranian-born British comic Omid Djalili as Casanova's indefatigable sidekick Ludo, Charlie Cox ( Merchant of Venice) as Francesca's impetuous younger brother Giovanni, and Natalie Dormer as Vittoria, the young and virginal beauty ready to explode.

Director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, Cider House Rules) spreads these gourmet preparations beautifully on the backdrop of lovely Venice, draped in costumes that will have your fingers crying out to feel them, and wrapped in a lush soundtrack that will have devotees of the Italian Baroque (like NDT) crooning with ecstasy. The pace, while lagging slightly in the middle, is well-set and drives without being driven; the screenplay and story (from new writer Kimberly Simi, playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cristofer (The Shadow Box) is an absolute masterpiece, full of clever and sparkling twists and turns that provide wonderful "Aha!" moments (hint: listen for Andrea's description of Francesca's father's appearance early in the film).

In short, I loved it. If your sensory taste buds are in a holiday slump and in need of a palate-cleanser, your spirit seeks an unsagging escape from the madness, or you crave another reminder of the beauty and humor of wit, this is for you.

Who knows, films like this could get me ENJOYING the movie experience.....

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