Tuesday, October 23, 2012

'Casanova' by Federico Fellini

Heath Ledger is too pretty for the title role in Lasse Halstrom's recent film about Casanova. The Venetian lover has no pathos if he’s played as a pretty boy. Fellini's similarly eponymous 1976 film stars Donald Sutherland, an unlikely (and therefore more interesting) choice, with his prominent eyes and lugubrious face, features which are further exaggerated by an artificially shaved hairline. His head looks like an egg, from which two additional half-eggs protrude in the form of his eyes. It’s a film about creative exhaustion (sex being Casanova’s arena of aesthetic activity), which unfortunately succumbs to its protagonist’s state of mind.

In the most striking scene, Casanova makes love to his ideal partner: a clockwork automaton, played by Leda Lojodice (a.k.a. Adele Angela Lojodice), who I assume was a dancer, since her movements are precisely suggestive of mechanism, but in a graceful, liquid way: a woman pretending to be a doll pretending to be a woman. (This version is in Italian with no subtitles, but the dialogue isn't really important.)

The music and sound design (for the automaton's clockwork sounds) complement the actress's performance perfectly. It's an incredibly creepy scene about narcissism and objectification, which is obviously influenced by Hoffman's tale of the Sandman, with the doll here being a version of Olympia in that tale.

Compare and contrast Deckard's encounter with the renegade 'pleasure model' replicant Pris from Blade Runner:


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