on April 21, 2012
"Fellini's Casanova" is one of my favorite films, and I've long hoped for a US DVD release. Universal Vault Series' on-demand release does deliver the best looking version on standard definition DVD, but be warned that the version you will receive - after displaying a speckle-free old-school Universal logo and English titles sequence - is in Italian with burned-in subtitles to the image. There is no English language option, which means you will not hear Donald Sutherland's voice on the soundtrack, and you cannot get rid of the text on the screen. Whoever made the decision to present the movie this way probably thought they were doing right by the film, but losing Sutherland's own voice performance was a serious letdown (it's a Fellini film, so technically all versions of it are dubbed). The DVD is single layer as well, so it's a 2 1/2 hour film on a 4GB dvd-r. This may not look that great on some systems. The UK inD release will remain my go-to DVD version unfortunately, despite looking inferior.
on March 5, 2012
This is one of the worst professional DVD's I've ever received. The compression is so poor that chunks of color information are clearly visible even during the opening credits. Also, it comes with a warning that it may not even be playable in computer drives. What's most frustrating is that the print is obviously a pretty good one. The levels are all good. All Universal needed was to take some care with the compression of this dvd. I can excuse the fact that there's no booklet or further information about the film aside from the unimaginatively designed front and back of box. This would be fine if the dvd looked better. But it just looks completely cheap and unprofessional. Worse than Netflix quality. For this they have the nerve to charge nearly 20 dollars! What a shame!!!! I wish Universal would just let Criterion license the film and do a proper release. The film, which is very curious and great, deserves a whole lot better!
I must admit to being an inveterate Fellini fan - I don't know what the sixties would have been without the string of great flicks which followed the seminal La Dolce Vita. That being said, Casanova was made in the mid-seventies - toward the end of the master's career - and is the work of a mature artist. Is Casanova an old man's film? In some ways, one has to have lived a bit to fully appreciate its humor, pathos, and greatness. I say, in my limited viewing of thousands of films (most before 1990), relative to the hundreds of thousands others have watched, Casanova ranks as one of the great historical re-creations, a sort of cinematic counterweight to Max Ophul's Lola Montez - and one of Fellini's most coherent, serious, and profound statements.
But none of these accolades could apply without the surprising, tour de force performance of Donald Sutherland (Keifer's daddy), who plays the legendary courtier. For those who are unaware of Sutherland Sr's career , he was `discovered' by Jane Fonda while he was gigging as a DJ in British Columbia, became a noted hunk on the Hollywood party scene, and started making films alongside his thoroughbred and talented girlfriend. O.K. Women loved him - but an acting talent? After many a mediocre performance, exactly how or why I do not know, he was cast by Fellini, of all folks, as Casanova. His date with destiny had arrived. And, somehow, like the proverbial understudy called on to star on opening night, or the bench player called on to start the biggest game of the season, he more than rises to the occasion. He gives the performance of a lifetime.
I have not seen the most recent film version of Casanova. However, there are scenes in Fellini's Casanova, such as the dance with the homonoculus, which are transcendent in their existential weight. Not a film for a keg-bash, an orgy, or a light laugh. Rather, an extended meditation on the emptiness to which the romantic impulse often leads, and how pearls before swine often end up trampled by them. A must see for the serious at heart, and about the heart.
on October 7, 2012
Universal has done it again. For some inexplicable reason they have released "Fellini Casanova" in its U.S./North American debut on DVD in Italian with irremovable subtitles as a MOD Vault Series title. Anyone familiar with the film knows that Fellini chose Donald Sutherland to portray the infamous for no exceptional reason except his sexual prowess Casanova. The Reg. 2 release, double disc Umbrella Films edition I purchased some time ago was in English, the language Sutherland spoke during production, but Universal has the whole thing dubbed in Italian with the subtitles. I am so glad I've kept my Reg. 2 release in order to clearly picture Sutherland's brilliant performance. It is an insult to re-imagine it any other way. Fellini has again created an immense, stunning portrait, but look for the Umbrella Film release with its many extras and in English. If Fellini were alive, I would berate him if he allowed the practice of dubbing his film in any other language than what was necessary. What an idiotic decision. Why do this to us?
on July 15, 2010
Back when this was completely unavailable in the U.S., I bought a PAL version for my region-free DVD player. I was glad to see the movie, but since then have learned that there is a better French version DVD. I bought this thinking it would surpass the other edition I had, since it was newer. It did not. The colors and sets do not stand out as greatly as they should. I would recommend waiting for a remastered edition of Casanova.
Warning: the item description states this is PAL, as opposed to NTSC format. That means unless you have a DVD player capable of playing a PAL disc you will have poor or no results. I have a region-free player, and it worked just fine on that.
on December 16, 2011
After reading about this film for years but having it never been widely or easily available, I finally caught up with it. I had seen most of Fellini's other more "popular" works and Casanova seemed to be considered a failure, too expensive, compromised in its production and editing (shot in English learned phonetically, ran out of money). It is also later in his career, and a meditation on age, waning fame and sexual prowess, a kind of self-reflexive film Fellini had been doing since "8 1/2" and through the '70s ("Roma" and "Intervista" seem clearly about being Fellini as much as the places they take as subjects, also "Director's Notebook").
Viewed, finally, in context "Casanova" is a nice mid-point between the stylish alter-realities of "Satyricon" and "Juliet of the Spirits" and the smaller yearnings about age, love and mortality such as "City of Women" and "Ginger and Fred." This expensive and surprisingly dour epic, beautiful as always but deeply melancholy, is the glue holding Fellini's loose fantasies and unbridled power to the later anxiety over television, memory, and yearning for a prior age that may never have been (his Venice is not near to the real one, except as a dream-state replication). Sutherland's sweaty neediness, silent and smoldering glares and sore back suggest a defeated glamour that is strangely sexless, reduced to mechanical (literally) reenactment of the basest human activity, sexual union, performed for unsure, dishonest or forgotten reasons.
This subtext, considering Fellini's subsequent engagements with orchestra rehearsals on ships, dancing partners on television shows, and dreamers who fly away to the moon, inform "Casanova" as an important late-career highlight, with an autobiographical element of an artist whose out of favor, going through the motions, able to please others if not himself. That this film seems to foreground the character Casanova's self-loathing (unlike most of Fellini's others - he "loves the sinner, hates the sin") makes this feel too cynical, baroque, no fun, not as effervescent as many others. Still, essential.
on May 22, 2010
Fellini's Casanova is a film that will bring the viewer into a mystical and surrealistic world of the famous lover from Venice. In addition to having a reputation as a lover that follows him throughout Europe, Casanova is also a poet, artist, mathematician, and philosopher. If that isn't enough to have an alluring aura, he is also a nobleman that dabbles in alchemy and the occult.
Although Casanova is an interesting character, he seems to attract just as many unusual people and experiences. In every instance, it just about always inevitably leads to some bedroom romp. His travels across Europe take him to the courts of many countries and unusual women somehow gravitate toward him like a magnate. From a woman pretending to be a nun in a mysterious palace on an island to a woman machine (robot) that is the amusement of the royal court, Casanova doesn't seem to have any problem getting himself into such unusual experiences. But in all the wondering Casanova does, one cannot but help think there is something empty in his life.
This film is musical, theatrical, and filled with amazing 18th century costumes. This is a movie that you will not forget anytime soon after watching it, as it is so atypical. As it is also filled with deeper meaning, if one looks for it anyway, Fellini's Casanova is one that can be watched again and again. I would recommend this movie the most for those who enjoy world cinema or art films, as it does not have any of the ingredients of a mainstream movie.
on June 30, 2010
This is not a region 1 DVD. It is a region 9, which is supposed to be all formats (huh?) However, it doesn't work on my region 1 player, but does work on my laptop without changing region. Could be my dvd player, which is kind of old, but heads up.
on January 5, 2012
It's Fellini, so of course it's very good. But I couldn't tell when I ordered this made-on-demand release whether the DVD transfer was 'letterboxed' or true widescreen. It is true widescreen, and a nice transfer with very good image quality. I think now only Fellini's 'La voce della luna' remains unavailable on DVD. I hope someone is able to remedy that absence soon.
on August 11, 2011
This is one of the darkest, if not the darkest, of Fellini's films, and also one of the most beautiful. With "Casanova", Fellini transplanted "Satyricon" into 18th century Europe. The sets, sumptuous and stunning, are peopled with visually flambuoyant characters in whichever court or city Casanova happens to be stationed in. The stormy sea made of black plastic sheets, which Casanova rows across, is genius! Owls are featured as set pieces; the "owl music box" in particular, functions as a voyeur of Casanova's various sex scenes. The over-the-top eroticism is completely appropriate for the Swinging Seventies, although I imagine there would have been "censorship issues" connected with this picture's release in the USA. Donald Sutherland is an androgynous Casanova, whose bemused expression reminds me of Tim Curry in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"; "Casanova" is a great showcase for Sutherland, especially when one sees the contrast between the young, confident Casanova, and the old, embittered one. As Casanova proceeds further into Northern Europe, aging in the process, the atmosphere of the film turns colder, grayer, and snowier. He encounters his cruel, disabled mother in Dresden, who complains that he has neglected her, and that he lives in a fool's paradise. His mother is as ghostly as Dicken's Miss Havisham, in this scene that could be seen as a hallucination, or as a daytime nightmare.
After the cursed encounter with his mother, the last 27 minutes of the picture become increasingly depressing. Casanova takes up residence in several wild, dysfunctional Northern European courts in Germany, Norway and Sweden. In the process, he becomes a man who is mocked, derided, and disrespected. Despite his many amorous encounters and occasional romantic relationships, he ends up old and alone, with only his fantasies; in particular the fantasy of Rosalba, the anatomically-correct real-life size female doll. Rosalba represents the return of the repressed, elucidating Casanova's obsession with sex as sport; he pays the price for choosing the sensual life over the intellectual life. The connection between Casanova's cruel, unloving mother, and the mechanical doll, is obvious: Rosalba is Casanova's mother (the two of actually them resemble each other). The end of this film is both sad and creepy; the lesson here, in Casanova's case, is "be careful what you wish for". The strange and haunting score was composed by Fellini's longtime collaborator, maestro Nino Rota; it features an abundance of minor keys and mournful, melancholy melodies with a generous garnish of whimsy.
Stephen C. Bird, Author of "Hideous Exuberance"