Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bava's Casanova

Please note that the Bava book blog has been updated with a new, detailed progress report.

On a related subject, Steno's Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova ("The Adventures of Giacomo Casanova," 1955) -- the first film photographed in color by Mario Bava -- was recently released on DVD in Italy by Ripley's Home Video, a label dedicated to resurrecting the Italian popular cinema of decades past. I don't know whether the disc has English subtitles (on the basis of previous Ripley releases, it's doubtful), but Casanova is a movie of incalculable importance to any study of Bava's developing aesthetics as a visual filmmaker -- and also a delightful entertainment.

It was Ursula Andress' screen debut (her hair's still dark, and she appears in the last scene of the movie as the last of many women to turn Casanova's head), but more importantly, it's a surprising film in terms of its sexual candor. There is absolutely no trace of the self-conscious, self-restricting neuroses that one would encounter in a similar film if made in the United States or Great Britain during the same period, and that's what's so refreshing about it. It treats sex as a normal human appetite, perhaps extraordinary in the case of Casanova (played by Gabriele Ferzetti -- "Mr. Choo-Choo" of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST), but his courage to pursue and quench his impulses makes him all the more likeable as a protagonist.

The film was a French-Italian co-production, and long before this once-thought-to-be-lost picture was rediscovered, it was surmised that the French version might have included some alternate scenes disclosing female nudity. The Italian version of the film I saw contained a brief instance of breast nudity, but in the time that has passed, another print was found (alas, a black-and-white print) which included some additional nude footage. This bold pageantry has been included on the DVD, I am told.

A copy is on its way to me, so I should be able to share more details once it arrives.

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