The French filmmaker Benoît Jacquot (“Diary of a chambermaid”, “Adieu ma Reine”) is a master of costumed dramas with an erotic tendency. He brings the European period piece back to earth by pitting aristocratic whimsy against the ugliest working class experiences, and he’s never afraid to visualize the, uh, unseemly biological realities beneath all those pants and hoop skirts.
“Casanova, Last Love,” her latest foray into the world of powdered wigs and courtly intrigue is no exception, though she is pale compared to her fiery films featuring women.
Jacqout re-evaluates the famous womanizer by portraying him not as a rowdy pleasure seeker, but as a sad and weathered sack living in exile. In this world, playboys are pathetic and pathetic, which reads like a plea for the modern public to let slandered men more cowardly.
Framed as a series of flashbacks, the film follows Casanova as he wanders like a ghost through the English court – a place much more vulgar than his usual stomping grounds. He falls in love with Marianne de Charpillon (Stacy Martin), a seductive but cruel prostitute who claims to have met him once before when she was an impressionable 11-year-old girl.
Then begins a disjointed game of cat and mouse that underlines the ambiguity of the intentions of La Charpillon, completed by the subdued spaces and the dreamy and velvety textures of the director of photography Christophe Beaucarne.
The formidable French actor, Vincent Lindon, usually plays sullen types with a menacing streak, but here he imbues his Casanova with a subtle poignant touch. It’s an interesting performance that nonetheless transforms Casanova to the point that he’s no longer a credible womanizer.
Perhaps that is the intention: appearances and reputations are deceptive. Although Jacquot questions our assumptions about characters like Casanova, as well as vilified women like La Charpillon, it leaves it there, leaving us to wonder what exactly it was for.
Casanova, last love
Unclassified. In French and English, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes. In theaters.