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As the man behind Chocolat, director Lasse Hallström is obviously no stranger to burnished, feel-good, European-set romances. In Casanova, he takes on one of the most legendary lovers of all time: Giacomo Casanova (Heath Ledger), the notorious swain of 1750s Venice. Casanova's bed-hopping tendencies (and predilection for seducing young nuns…) earn the ire of the Inquisition, and the Doge of Venice (Tim McInnerny) gives the incorrigible lothario an ultimatum: Get respectable, or get out. So Casanova sets out to procure a bride, only to find himself falling for outspoken neo-feminist Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller) — who, in an attempt to reinvigorate her family's failing finances, has been affianced to earnest lard magnate Signor Papprizzio (Oliver Platt). The bulk of the movie's plot revolves around Casanova's complicated attempts to win Francesca while dodging determined Inquisitor Pucci (Jeremy Irons, in a truly awful wig). The resulting tangled web of mistaken identity, disguise, and close calls brings Shakespeare to mind (and, to an extent, "Three's Company"). Through it all, Ledger is a breezy delight; he plays Casanova as a slyly charming fellow who simply can't help loving women and revels in the fact that they love him, too (the film ties his emotional neediness back to early abandonment by his mother — obviously, someone's been to therapy). And as his one true love, Miller's Francesca is an appealing mix of headstrong mischief and romantic idealism. The stars are surrounded by an excellent supporting cast; Platt steals all of his scenes as Papprizzio, especially the ones he shares with Hallström's wife, Lena Olin, who plays Francesca's mother, Andrea. As Casanova's loyal valet, Lupo, Omid Djalili scores his share of laughs, and Irons cheerfully chews the scenery as Pucci. The lush costumes and beautiful Venetian locations are gorgeous, and the energetic classical score is a fitting accompaniment to the action. Sure, there are some flaws in the script (no one in Venice knows what the city's most notorious citizen actually looks like?), but it's pointless to quibble over things like that in a movie like this. Light, fluffy, and as inconsequential as it is entertaining, Casanova may be almost as much of a cinematic confection as Chocolat — but every so often you need a bite of something sweet. Touchstone's DVD presents the film in a lovely anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, as well as French and Spanish tracks and subtitles, and English closed captions. Extras include an extended scene, three standard behind-the-scenes featurettes ("Creating an Adventure," "Dressing in Style," and "Visions of Venice"), and an audio commentary by Hallström. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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