Friday, February 11, 2005

Dennis Potter

Casanova vs Don Juan...


I brought Dennis Potter's "Casanova" in DVD, a 6-part BBC TV drama, from the book shop of the Royal National Theatre a couple of weeks ago. During my Thurloe Square years I only saw one of Potter's TV plays, "Lipstick on Your Collar" , but if I ever have to explain the Suez Crisis to freshly recruited foreign service professionals (in the Library of King Dom Pedro, perhaps? Royal ghost and all...) I would go for that TV film rather than lecturing or provide further boring reading on the subject. And I remember his last year, struggling with cancer and sharing with solomonic justice his last two plays between BBC and C4 (how so very English!).

So the Russkaya spotted "Casanova" in the Southbank shelves, and knowing my interests and obsessions, pointed it out to me. We have been reserving its viewing as closing-of-the-day entertainment, at most two episodes in a row, before retiring to respective beauty sleeps. What can I say about what I've seen so far? What do I really want to say? The crucial thing, whenever one deals with Casanova, is to avoid mixing up Giaccomo and D. Juan. The former, in my view, loved women, while D. Juan was a misogynist, and, deep down, hated them, and wanted them to pay for whatever flaws he could not even begin to confess to himself. D. Juan is tragic first and foremost while tragic features are just a small part of the complexity of Casanova. Why then did Potter made Casanova say the words "I hate women" which, although everybody can express it at one moment or the other, in the heat of an argument, puts Giaccomo dangerously in the same basket of D. Juan? Potter redeems himself by positing that Casanova's central quest in life was the quest for freedom (albeit most of the times freedom expressed in sexual terms). The cry for liberty .. that's what makes the libertine, not the supposed behavior of an "impious, devilish, wicked" man in whom "sacrilege, lasciviousness, voluptuousness, imposture, fraud and heresy was so evilly mixed" (as his Judges in Venice put it).

I have in the red sofa room a puppet of Casanova, in full foppish regalia, bought in a small shop in Castello, during my recent Venice Revisited. Handling "Him" as a puppet is almost sacrilegious. Manipulating a manipulator... Dennis Potter did the same.

4 comments:

Russkaya said...

Well, people allways were trying to find a justify for their sins. "Freedom" is quite comfortable and easy, not-demanding and taking-different-shapes-from-one-listener-to-another explanation.

And talking about manipulation... What about a spaniel? You will have a "puppet" without hurting anybodys feelings!
You can even name it "Casanova"?...

perestrelo54 said...

I fully subscribe the Casanova V.s D. Juan analysis. To me it appears natural that a Latin man with ideals, principles and passion for Life feels a certain admiration and even self identification with Giacomo.

pasol said...

Not at all. I mostly disgree . Poor Don Juan! While sick Casanova was just a collectioner, an kind of entomologist of women, Don Juan was a serial lover, a true sinner,a sufferer, a real believer in life and death.. Of course , this is old fashioned and not very politically correct..
Don Juan had something that Casanova whith his wig and attire never had or understood, a big sense of guilt.

t-shelf said...

I really enjoyed the Cold Lazarus TV series too...