October 18th, 2006
In between fits of doing the writing that I actually have to do, I got to watch Casanova and catch up on the second series of the new “Doctor Who.” I’ve already posted here about the first half of Casanova and the “Christmas Invasion” special, but that only accounts for 3½ of my eight hours. 4½ more to go!
First of all, “Doctor Who.” While each episode has had its strengths, my favorite so far is “Tooth and Claw”: it’s set in Scotland, it features Queen Victoria, it has a werewolf, and it chronicles the creation of Torchwood (both the Institute and the anti-alien weaponry—for which, it turns out, the Doctor was unintentionally responsible). I really like the bits that tie into the Torchwood story arc—I admit I’m drawn to stories of how a fall into evil occurs. Every time I say this, Porpoise points out that they’re only mentioning Torchwood to generate interest in the new BBC spin-off show of the same name. So cynical, that Porpoise of mine. (Oh, by the way, I felt very silly when I had to read a Wikipedia article to find out that “Torchwood” is an anagram of “Doctor Who.” Argh!).
“School Reunion” was touching—and sad. Though I haven’t seen any of the old “Doctor Who” episodes with Sarah Jane Smith as the Doctor’s traveling companion, I could still definitely grasp her struggle to adjust to normal life after years of traveling the universe. Her presence in the episode helped to give us a sense that Rose may be having fun and larks now, but she has something of the same adjustment-difficulty waiting in her future. This was also the first time I’ve met K-9, the robotic dog who used to be a “Doctor Who” regular. If the Doctor hadn’t rebuilt K-9 for Sarah Jane, I think I would have cried and possibly held the Doctor in lower regard for the rest of his lives. Apparently I also get upset about metal-animal death. And Mickey’s realization that he now serves the same function (technical assistance, etc.) as the metal dog? Priceless.
On a complete side-note, I just have to say that I love the Tenth Doctor’s outfit. Especially the striped suit with the Converse-style sneakers. Porpoise has been hoping for weeks that I would allow him to wear tennis shoes to an upcoming wedding. Last week, I told him he could do so if they were Converse sneakers. He’s now torn between wanting to be comfortable and fear of encouraging my David Tennant obsession.
Speaking of which . . . Casanova. After the light-heartedness of the first half, the second installment was heart-wrenching. After Henriette’s marriage to Grimani and Casanova’s escape from prison (an escape which necessitated his self-exile from Venice), he, his manservant Rocco, and his illegitimate-son-by-a-nun Jack, travel from Paris to London, and, finally, to Naples. In Paris and London, we get to laugh at the debauchery and sadism of the French and then the smugness and the relative propriety of the Britons. But, in each place, Giacomo Casanova seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into a joyless debauchery. Meanwhile, he has no idea how to relate to his young son, who, as he grows older, reveals some disturbing pleasure in torturing others. It’s finally in Naples, under the shadow of smoking Mt. Vesuvius, that Giacomo sees the full wages of sin, when his son tries to seduce his own half-sister (Giacomo’s illegitimate daughter by the singer Bellino). The costumes for the Naples segment are clearly inspired by 80’s punk culture, and the Neapolitans are dealing with living in the shadow of death by throwing away all scruples. Jack, throwing his father’s own words and actions back at him, is all too willing to do likewise.
After we had finished watching, I asked Porpoise if he thought Casanova would have been faithful to Henriette if he’d been able to marry her. Porpoise thought that was certainly the implication. After all, as much as Giacomo sleeps around with married women, he will never pursue Henriette after she marries Grimani. He knows she wouldn’t want him to, and he respects her wish. It’s the one boundary he won’t cross.
And that’s what makes this version of Casanova more than a simple scumbag. He’s a scumbag, of course, but not a simple one. And, as he (the older Casanova, played by Peter O’Toole) tells Edith, he has written down his life-story not out of pride, but in penance. So when he dies without getting to see Henriette one last time, you do feel pity for him, even though you know that’s the only way it could have ended.
Anyway, life will now settle down into one Tennant-hour per week–a much more sustainable pattern.