The Sunday Intertitle: The World’s Greatest Lover

Theory — to make sure Ivan Mosjoukine registers as a convincing Great Lover in Alexandre Volkoff’s 1927 CASANOVA, he’s surrounded by male grotesques — notably an early appearance by Michel Simon (right). I always assumed Simon perfected his  “look” in the boxing ring, but however far back you go, the spectacular kisser seems just as alcesian (moose-like) . Age and weight added “character” to it later, but this was surely redundant — Simon was already a flesh-cartoon drunkenly doodled by God on a beer mat, then foolishly allowed out into the world before sobriety could intervene. A boozy decision we can all be grateful for.

In one scene, Casanova startles an angry creditor and the bailiffs (above) by inflating himself to colossal size (something not nearly enough characters do in films). While the bulbous Mardi Gras Casanova that results is indeed alarming, it’s hard to see how it could startle Simon, who after all must face himself in the mirror to shave every day.

Mosjoukine DOES impress, though I’ve never been partial to periwigs myself. Actually, his very first appearance is a neat trick, as two white wigs fill the screen, creating an indistinct sort of woolly cloud, then they part as Casanova’s female servants stop fussing with him, revealing Mosjoukine in all his glory.

Another good bit of storytelling — a servant brings a message for the Great Lover, and stops an old Venetian gent to ask directions. The senior citizen cups his ear —

— yells the boy. The old guy is still baffled, shaking his head — but every shutter in every window opens and a woman appears at each, pointing the way.

3 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: The World’s Greatest Lover”

  1. Of all the happy accidents caused by commercial dictat, Sutherland’s casting in the Fellini is one of the nicest. It’d be interesting to see Mastroianni in the role, as Fellini planned — probably closer to Mosjoukine — but the strangeness brought by Sutherland really pushes the film into new territory.

  2. The thing is Sutherland actually LOOKS like Casanova in the contemporary illustrations of him that were made. Mastroianni did not. Moreover Marcello’s primary mode was passivity. Taht wouldn’t have worked for Casanova.

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