In general, films dealing with Giacomo Casanova have failed to really move the needle for me. As a man most known for his elaborate and varied affairs with women, the historical figure is one whose story reads more as tedious rather than titillating. This may be why I am slightly more forgiving of Casanova, Last Love, the newest depiction of the character from Benoît Jacquot (Farewell, My Queen). Rather than attempting to cover the vast expanse of lovers that Casanova took over his storied lifetime, the film instead focuses an aged version of the man as he reflects on the so-called great “love of his life.” While this approach may still yield a significant amount of dull stretches, and a whole set of problems regarding the depiction of women only being the objects of desire, there is a melancholy undertone that at least makes me want to be invested. Unfortunately, an underdeveloped script throws away a lot of that goodwill by the end. 

In the waning days of 18th century Bohemia, an increasingly frail Casanova (Vincent Lindon) is visited by Cécile (Julia Roy), the niece of his employer to whom he recalls the one woman he truly loved. This particular time was thirty years ago in 1763 as he arrives in London after being exiled from France. To say that London does not agree with Casanova would be an understatement; the fact that the reserved Italian does not speak English could probably be overcome, but the defecating and fornicating out in the open is a bit much for him to handle. He rejects the propositions from public harlots, but the man is not completely chaste as he reconnects with old acquaintances such as Lord Pembroke (Christian Erickson) and opera singer Madame Cornelys (Valeria Golino), a former lover who is worthy of more exploration than the movie gives her. Casanova soon becomes transfixed by Marianne, known as La Charpillon (Stacy Martin, The Night House), a young upper class prostitute who tantalizes him enough to become the unattainable fantasy that he cannot shake. 

For a film that is positioned to give women more power than the average Casanova story, La Charpillon is oddly underdeveloped. Upon seeing the effect she has on Casanova, she strings him along with the agreement of a sexless “engagement” meant to keep him on the hook while proving his devotion. What could have been a depiction of Casanova meeting the woman who would equal his cunning and intelligence is undercut by the fact that La Charpillon is given precious little to do more than be mysterious and subject to the male gaze. Literally. There are numerous scenes of Casanova walking into rooms and watching her in various states of undress or coital embrace. As a character, she is only meant to get Casanova extra randy before pushing him away once more. With a different creative team, this could have been an intriguing story of sexual power dynamics and mental manipulation. Not only is there little passion to make this tale believable, but the emotional payoff simply does not work. 

Despite the unsteady script that undercuts the few positives it has going for it, the performances generally rise above what is on the page. While a subdued Casanova may not be what most people want, Vincent Lindon imbues him with a world-weary energy that reeks of a man who has had every pleasure at his disposal to the point where it does not register for him anymore. For this type of story, there does need to be more magnetism between the two lead performers as they engage in their romantic dance, but Lindon does not sizzle with Martin. Although, this may have more to do with the creepy way in which they wrote his character more than anything. The attempt to give this character something different to do is admirable, but the elements just do not come together to make something satisfying. Technically, the film is quite fetching as you visit stately manors and attend opulent parties bathed in candlelight. Casanova, Last Love not only needed more passion radiating off the screen, but also a greater respect for the internal characteristics of these figures. 

Video Quality

Casanova, Last Love debuts on Blu-Ray with a 1080p presentation in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio that mostly captures the film well. The movie itself has a very muted color palette that was never going to make this a disc you show off, but there is a fine amount of detail and clarity. There is slight loss of detail in the shots most drenched in shadows, but it is not pervasive throughout. With this being a period film, there are large portions of the film lit only by candlelight which holds up well thanks to deep black levels with no obvious signs of crush. Objects hold up fairly well in the shadows and retain their depth. There is no damage or digital noise detectable in this transfer. There are not really any moments that are going to jump off the screen, but this is a solid video presentation overall.

Audio Quality

The film comes to Blu-Ray with a commendable DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track in the original French. The movie is mostly on the quiet side with no big bursts of activity. The low end of the track is rarely active, as subtle environmental sounds make more of a showing in the surrounds. The dialogue and sound effects are appropriately balanced with the classic score where nothing gets lost in the track. Surround channels get some nice activity during the nature scenes and during small parties with idle chatter. There are no issues whatsoever with this track.

Special Features

  • Theatrical Trailer: The two-minute trailer is provided here. 

 

Final Thoughts

Casanova, Last Love is not your typical tale about the classic figure, and for that reason it serves up something the slightest bit better than normal. There is a melancholy longing that runs throughout the film which may appeal to the more romance-minded audience members, but a messy script hinders a lot of the passion and intrigue. While the acting remains pretty strong, the film lacks momentum during much of the runtime. Cohen Media Group and Kino Lorber have released a Blu-Ray featuring a pretty great A/V presentation but nothing in the way of special features. If you enjoy romantic period French films, this one might speak to you.

Casanova, Last Love will be available to purchase on Blu-Ray on October 12, 2021. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Cohen Media Group and Kino Lorber have supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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