REVIEW: DVD Release: Casanova ‘70

Film: Casanova ‘70
Release date: 6th September 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 111 mins
Director: Mario Monicelli
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Virna Lisi, Marisa Mell, Michèle Mercier, Enrico Maria Salerno
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Studio: Mr Bongo
Format: DVD
Country: Italy/France

Mario Monicelli’s 1965 comedy Casanova ’70 is very much a product of its time, starring Marcello Mastroianni as a suave ladies man hot on the heels of roles in Fellini classics La Dolce Vita and 8 ½. Despite its frothy ‘60s comedic stylings, the film (attributed to six writers) was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 1966, highlighting the clever wordplay between characters.

As the smooth talking and globetrotting NATO Officer Andrea Rossi-Colombotti, Marcello Mastroianni has a way with the ladies that rivals even Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. With a high-ranking job taking him to glamorous locations (including France, Switzerland and Italy), Andrea catches the eye of a number of beautiful women, including his original first-love Gigliola (Virna Lisi).

However, Andrea has a significant problem; he can only seduce women in dangerous circumstances, and is addicted to risk. This leads to a procession of hijinks and comedic mishaps as Andrea stumbles from one beautiful woman to the next, constantly enticed by danger in order to fuel his libido.

As the element of danger increases from woman to woman, Andrea eventually finds himself wrongly accused of killing off the wealthy husband of one of his lovers in a court of law. Consequently, he faces trial by judge, with his demented psychiatrist, and all of his (almost) conquests appearing as witnesses, detailing his obsession with sex and jeopardy…

From a modern viewpoint, Casanova ’70 does appear somewhat antiquated with its ‘60s sensibilities and washed out style. The idea of a risqué sex comedy in this style seemed very prevalent at the time of the uninhibited swinging ‘60s, and familiar to British audiences in films such as the Carry On... series. Yet Casanova ’70 does feel somewhat different, and perhaps edgier with its subject matter, with the central character in Andrea appearing as an early parody of James Bond-esque conquests and well-travelled thrill-seeking (even before Peter Sellers in the 1966 version of Casino Royale).

The film relies heavily on the performance of Mastroianni, who charmingly mixes suave sophistication in his initial pursuit of attractive ladies with the inevitable slapstick pratfalls he takes in an attempt to instigate danger for himself. Mastroianni somehow maintains the charm of NATO Officer Andrea, where otherwise a character who is effectively a compulsive liar able to leave one beautiful woman in pursuit of another on a whim might be viewed much more unsympathetically. For instance, when Andrea travels to the Swiss Alps following his psychologist’s diagnosis of “the devil inside him” in an attempt to change, he once again falls in love. This time, however, he proposes marriage, and promises commitment. Yet before long, on a date with his bride-to-be at a circus, Andrea is enticed to answer a female lion-tamer’s challenge for any man brave enough to kiss her in a lion’s cage. Of course, Andrea kisses the woman a little too passionately in front of the circus audience, where his Swiss engagement is effectively ended leaving him to make a swift getaway from the country.

There are numerous sequences in the film that all ultimately end in this way, with Andrea seemingly stumbling from one set piece into the next. Thus, while the character remains rather endearing through the natural charisma of Mastroianni, Andrea is unquestionably shallow and two-dimensional in his motivations. The only signifier perhaps of any depth to Andrea beyond his ‘condition’ is in his respect for the true love he shared in his youth with Gigliola, where Andrea cannot bear to seduce a woman he truly cares for, so instead leaves to spend the night with a woman who is said to bring bad luck to all men who have a liaison with her.

The film is well staged and directed by Mario Monicelli, despite the fact that the cinematography is showing its age on DVD. One stand-out scene involves a multiple car chase of Andrea from a group of men angry at his method of duping them into allowing him to seduce a local Sicilian girl in their family, where Andrea’s car is unexpectedly nudged off a cliff only for the NATO Officer to miraculously escape. Also worthy of note is the extended cameo performance of Enrico Maria Salerno as Andrea’s psychiatrist, who increasingly reveals his own eccentricities after spending so long with the mentally unstable. For instance, in an exchange which sums up the humour of Casanova ’70, the psychiatrist reveals a predilection for women’s stockings. Andrea agrees that he too likes a woman in stockings; only for the psychiatrist to reveal that he means he has a predilection for them because he likes to wear them himself.

Casanova ’70 features a fine central comedic performance by Marcello Mastroianni, bringing a somewhat two-dimensional James Bond-esque role to life with a curious mixture of suave cool and charming slapstick panache. Monicelli’s Italian language film is most definitely a product of its era, and somewhat repetitive in parts, although with an added comedic edge that makes it worth a watch. DB

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