To put it delicately, we all have our own special, sensual "quirks." Specific little fantasies or peculiarities that entice and titillate when all else fails. For some it can be something as simple as a sexy little dress, a bottle of fine wine, or a particularly romantic song -- but for others, well, it can get a little… complicated. The 1965 Italian comedy, 'Casanova '70,' is about such an individual, an individual whose sexual needs call for slightly more drastic measures than a mere glass of champagne and a kinky outfit. No, for this poor lover, romance can actually be quite deadly. A funny and tantalizing comedy about risky desire, the film manages to entertain with colorful visuals and charming performances, even if its script can be repetitive at times.
The story follows the romantic exploits of Andrea (Marcello Mastroianni) as he tries to deal with an unfortunate and fairly unusual sexual condition. It seems that Andrea can only become aroused when he is in a dangerous situation, and this leads to all sorts of problems with the various women he encounters. Episodic in structure, the script focuses on Andrea's various dalliances with beautiful conquests as he seeks out increasingly precarious situations in order to satiate his desires. Early on he tries to rid himself of his so called "demon," but his compulsions constantly get the better of him in often humorous and elaborate ways, culminating in a potentially deadly climax.
Mastroianni is a joy to watch in the womanizing role. Much of the comedy comes from his alternatively suave and bumbling persona. The various delicate situations that the character finds himself in, gradually amplify in absurdity as the running time carries on, and the actor's actions and reactions to the conflicts he creates are quite entertaining. The poor man wants to overcome his affliction, but he just can't help himself, and the more he tries to escape, the more he gets sucked back in. Andrea's sensual escapades usually involve the thrill-seeking lothario's attempts to sleep with married women, but can also feature more creative circumstances, such as a brief affair with a lion tamer (the threat of the lions turns him on). Seeing Mastroianni attempt to sneak around without being caught leads to some great bits of physical comedy. In fact, just watching the man try to unbutton a woman's shirt can be hilarious, and the actor handles the role with charisma and buffoonery. Bolstering the physical comedy is director Mario Monicelli's humorous use of blocking and composition. Deliberate camera movements, physical positioning, and well placed objects within the set are all used to great effect, including a particularly amusing instance involving a mirror which instantly exposes Andrea in the middle of a lie.
Though the movie is certainly entertaining, the episodic structure does leave a bit to be desired. Certain scenarios are more compelling than others, and after a while Andrea's numerous dashes with sexual peril start to wear a little thin and eventually become redundant. Thankfully, though, the movie does find a certain groove in its latter half and eventually settles on a specific narrative thread which plays out until the end. The climax in particular features a wonderfully absurd sensibility, that successfully capitalizes on all the loose threads gathered throughout the film, and in many ways shares quite a bit with the series finale of 'Seinfeld.'
'Casanova '70' isn't exactly a milestone of classic Italian cinema, but as far as romantic comedies go, this is a relatively strong and entertaining film. Mastroiannni carries the picture with a strong air of on-screen dynamism, class, and a silly, blundering wit, and director Mario Monicelli does a great job of complementing his performance with some nice visual panache and a good sense of comedic timing. A light and funny venture into perilous romance, desire, and even a bit of farce, the film manages to overcome a slightly meandering script to form a worthwhile and enjoyable viewing experience.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino brings 'Casanova '70' to Blu-ray on a BD-25 disc packaged in a standard case with a cardboard slipcase. After some logos and warnings the disc transitions to a standard menu.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, despite some otherwise strong aspects, the image appears to suffer from some rather serious compression issues.
The print itself is in very good shape with no real signs of damage. The main problem with the video involves what appears to be some very steady compression artifacts. While occasionally quite faint, various textures, tones, and areas of the screen almost constantly pixelate and break up into very small shifting patterns. It's most noticeable in walls, faces, and skies. At its worst, the effect is similar to how a streaming HD video might separate into very tiny smoothed over blocks while trying to fully resolve. The noisy and blocky artifacting is so prevalent and consistent throughout the image and running time, that it often looks like an unusually blotchy grain structure. Upon closer inspection, however, it clearly isn't, and there are times when one can see the film's naturally fine grain form through the compression. I do want to be clear that I'm not talking about huge chunks of the screen fracturing into pieces, it's more subtle than that, but it isn't a natural part of the image, and when viewing on a large screen from a reasonable distance the artifacts are noticeable, almost constant, and extremely annoying. The rest of the image is actually very strong, with pleasingly vibrant colors, consistent black levels, and solid contrast. Unfortunately, the steady, poorly resolved patterns and tones degrade overall detail and depth and mar what could have otherwise been a very strong presentation.
'Casanova '70' has a lot going for it visually, but some prevalent and annoying compression artifacts present a slightly pixelated and blotchy image that often renders detail indistinct. It should be noted that various clips from the film which play out in the main menu do not exhibit this issue, which further reinforces the problem as some kind of encoding defect. In many ways, the video here resembles a streaming HD feed more than a Blu-ray transfer. A very high quality streaming HD feed, mind you, but that still isn't acceptable. While it's possible that some viewers may not be bothered by or even notice the artifacts, for me, the noisy, blocky patterns essentially ruin the presentation. This is an uncharacteristically poor transfer from Kino.
The audio is presented in an Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 mix with optional English subtitles. Similar to many mono films of the era, the track is serviceable but offers little else.
Dialogue is clean but lacks the kind of full quality that is found in modern mixes. The single channel of audio does a decent job of presenting the film's various effects and music but fidelity isn't terribly impressive. Dynamic range is OK, but when there is a lot of activity and sound at once (the court scene near the end, for example) the frequencies tend to jumble together. Thankfully, there are no major signs of crackle, hissing, or other technical anomalies.
The audio is understandably basic, and while it certainly doesn't impress, it gets the job done. With no real technical issues outside of the track's natural limitations, this is about as good as the film can sound.
'Casanova '70' is a charming and comical romantic escapade. Mastroianni shines as the thrill-seeking womanizer with a dangerous sexual appetite, and though the story can get a bit repetitive, the director injects enough style into the proceedings to keep it all interesting. Unfortunately, an otherwise strong video presentation is dashed by some subtle but still unsightly compression artifacts. Audio is limited by its age, but serves the film well. With only a trailer and a stills gallery, true supplements are disappointingly absent. Though the movie is certainly worth a look, the disc's technical issues and lack of special features make this a rental at best.