I, DON GIOVANNI
Venice, 1763. Writer Lorenzo da Ponte (Lorenzo Balducci) is leading a cavalier life. Originally a priest, his numerous affairs result in him being sent into exile in Vienna, where he arrives in 1781. Supported by his friend and mentor, the well connected Giacomo Casanova (Tobias Moretti), da Ponte is introduced in Vienna to the King's favourite composer, Salieri (Ennio Fantastichine), and a newcomer named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Lino Guanciale). Seeing an opportunity to undermine his rival's ascension, Salieri tricks Mozart into hiring this unknown libertine as his librettist. But da Ponte's own nature and sentimental wanderings in Vienna only inspire the composer, and lead to one of Mozart's most bold and powerful compositions: Don Giovanni.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Lush, luscious, richly colourful and engaging, I, Don Giovanni is spectacle and drama and comedy as befits a story about real people, not least characters like Salieri and Mozart. It tends to be a bit ragged in story telling, lacking smooth transitions of time and place, but full of admirable milestones and of course, stirring, magnificent music. And let's not forget the sensational locations of 18th century Venice and Vienna. (And some simple CGI landscape views.)
Nor is the film a stickler for accuracy: when Lorenzo da Ponte (Lorenzo Balducci) arrives in Vienna in the winter of 1781, meeting Mozart they shake hands and exchange a Freemason signal - even though Mozart didn't become a Freemason until December 1784. But this sort of concertina device is perhaps excusable for the sake of economy; the film isn't a historical doco but a human drama, and the more fascinating for that. It fits the writing of the opera around its creators, Mozart and da Ponte, the latter a playboy being reformed by his love for the woman he truly loves. This is all good material for their work and director Carlos Saura, familiar with putting passion on the screen (for example Tango  and Salome ), does a generally fine job.
Performances are top notch all round, although Lorenzo Balducci isn't given the chance to behave as badly as his character Lorenzo da Ponte is meant to before being banished. Or perhaps we're just less easily shocked. Lino Guanciale is excellent as Mozart, energetic and charismatic, while Tobias Moretti carves out a fascinating portrayal of an ageing Giacomo Casanova, who glory days are past. The beautifully bewitching, blue eyed Emilia Verginetti is serenely effective as the woman Lorenzo loves, but all the women are gorgeous as are the costumes, and the dialogue is smart and stylish.
We only learn after the event that da Ponte's first collaboration with Mozart was the Italian libretto for The Marriage of Figaro - great success - which rather robs the film of some dramatic potential. But the scene where Salieri and da Ponte visit the penniless Mozart to offer him the Emperor's money for a new opera of Don Giovanni, this time with lyrics by da Ponte, is wonderful - as is the lead-up to it, and sensual scene after it, as da Ponte's outlining his version of the risqué story is realised on screen, under Mozart's glorious music. It's a clever idea to show the rehearsals, not the final production, giving the filmmaker greater flexibility to get into and out of the scenes.
Love, lust, jealousy and creative tensions wrap the film and the stunning cinematography make it eminently watchable.
First published in the Sun Herald
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I, DON GIOVANNI (M)
Io, Don Giovanni
CAST: Lorenzo Balducci, Tobias Moretti, Ennio Fantastichine, Lino Guanciale, Emilia Verginelli, Ketevan Kemoklidze, Sergio Foresti, Botja Quiza, Francesca Inaudi, Cristine Gianelli
PRODUCER: Andres Vicente Gomez, Andrea Occhipinti, Igor Uboldi
DIRECTOR: Carlos Saura
SCRIPT: Carlos Saura, Raffaello Uboldi, Alessandro vallini
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vittoria Storaro
EDITOR: Julia Juaniz
MUSIC: Nicola Tescari (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: May 6, 2010 - other capitals: May 13, 2010