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Fellini’s Casanova

Is there something inherently rubbish about the source material that makes just about every adaptation of the memoirs of this bullshitting Venetian nobsmith turn to celluloid porridge? That one with Doctor Who David Tennant was good in parts but no great shakes (and relied rather too heavily on the sub-Blackadder belief that having someone in period costume saying “Er, I dunno” a lot is the very essence of wit and knowing charm), the Dennis Potter one we’ve never managed to stay awake through, and as for that German telly one with Christopher Lee, Roy Kinnear and a woman fainting head-first into some grapes… well, yes. Anyway, here’s decadent, can’t-be-arsed, I’m-bloody-great-me-period Fellini having something of the right idea – no-one cares about the randy old sod really, so let’s just go mad with the production design and hope the studio accountants don’t come back from lunch early. We know we go on about how good old films look all the time, but really, when you look at the boring visuals on offer in 99% of the stuff at your local Warner Village, you really do miss the days when things this madly colourful were a relative commonplace. A few minutes’ exposure to Fred’s feisty folly and you’ll wonder where your retinas went. Sumptuous, chandelier-heavy palaces fill up with multicoloured fops, tarts, circus performers, orgies and organ players on trolleys, and there’s the famous bin-liner sea, a whale skeleton and various Phibesian horny clockwork robots. Sadly, like a P*t*r Gr**n*w*y period effort, all this high quality eye curry adds up to a big pot of sod all when it comes down to such lowbrow trifles as ‘plot’ and ‘characterisation’, which is a shame. It’s not all photography, mind – there’s a weird electronic score from Nino ‘Godfather’ Rota, and among the usual Eurocast, Donald Sutherland plays your saucy hero, and the dream combo of Russ Meyer stalwart Chesty Morgan and a periwigged Dudley Sutton are in there somewhere too.

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  1. Matt Patton

    February 27, 2010 at 1:12 am

    Not an expert on the oeuvre of Russ Meyer, but I think Chesty Morgan actually worked for Doris Wishman–about whose films I’m even less of an expert–I just saw that weirdo-film series that Jonathan Ross did ages ago.

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