Review: Casanova, Last Love
by Fabien Lemercier
- In this twilit film by Benoît Jacquot, Vincent Lindon plays a surprising Casanova, disarmed by the push and pull of Stacy Martin
In 1793, when a young girl in Bohemia asks her teacher, Casanova, a question on his reputation as a seducer and the scale of his conquests ("all these women?"), the famous Venetian adventurer, who can see the end of his life drawing nearer (he will die five years later at the age of 73) replies: "it’s not as bad as they say. Each was the first and the last woman for me. I was a friend to them all, except for one." And it is the story of this exception, a relationship full of unsatiated desires and excruciating pain, as told by Casanova in his book of memoirs, Story of My Life, that Benoît Jacquot recounts in his new feature film (his 25th), Casanova, Last Love [+see also:
film profile], released in French cinemas by Diaphana Distribution.
By way of flashbacks, the film moves back in time thirty years to London where much to his dismay, after having escaped from “The Leads” (or Piombi) prison in Venice, Casanova (Vincent Lindon, cast against type) finds himself friendless and unable to speak English. While discovering the shocking moeurs of English high society at this time, where people hide and where they put themselves on show, and where sophistication (ladies’ hats, gentlemen’s billiards) verges on extreme vulgarity (not to mention out and out debauchery), he comes across La Charpillon (Stacy Martin). Four times and from a distance, this young woman of openly dubious morality catches his eye. A lover of freedom ("I travel a lot. The desire to leave always wins out "), especially in his relations with the opposite sex, Casanova quite literally falls for the charms of La Charpillon, who continually refuses his advances, yet teases him wherever possible (""come and sit next to me, you look so stiff in your armchair ") before asking him to act as her fiancé for 15 days so as to earn the privilege of consummating their relationship (but, at the last minute…). She blows hot and cold, playing a game of cat and mouse, of giving and of taking away, without ever really revealing whether it’s a case of cruel manipulation or whether it stems back to a deep desire to be loved or to the continuation of a murky relationship which took place years earlier (they met in Paris when she was 11 years old: "were you that little girl?"). Either way, it’s a labyrinth in which the great seducer will lose himself for months on end, consumed with passions ranging from exasperation to despair as La Charpillon continues to draw him in and push him away…
Completely at ease as he sets about reconstructing the 18th century (as he already demonstrated in Farewell My Queen [+see also:
interview: Benoît Jacquot
film profile]) and in his portrayal of the two-faced English aristocracy, Benoît Jacquot looks to cloak the film in a veil of strangeness, which is amplified by the great work carried out by director of photography, Christophe Beaucarne. The result is an atmosphere of ambiguity which might not be to everyone’s taste, but it does give the film a certain cachet and an elusive air, where virtue and the quest for the good as extolled in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (which our older Casanova and narrator of the story is teaching to his student) are seriously undermined by the all-consuming, dangerous desire to possess at all costs that which is refused to us.
Casanova, Last Love is produced by Les Films du Lendemain and JPG Films and is co-produced by Wild Bunch, France 3 Cinéma, Les Films du Fleuve (Belgium) and Cohen Media Group (USA). International sales are handled by Elle Driver.
(Translated from French)
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