A decorative but dullish historical fluff about the creation of Mozart's opera.

The first collaboration between Carlos Saura and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro since “Goya in Bordeaux” a decade ago, “I, Don Giovanni” is decorative but dullish historical fluff about the creation of Mozart’s opera. Aiming closer to “Shakespeare in Love” than “Amadeus” — though the script lacks “Shakespeare’s” intricacy and wit, let alone depth enough to be taken seriously — this doughy pastry never quite rises, despite generous musical excerpts. Its impact most likely will be as an upscale broadcast item.

Protag is Lorenzo Da Ponte (Lorenzo Balducci), a priest exiled from Venice for licentious behavior and penning heretical verse. Pal Casanova (Tobias Moretti) arranges his introduction to Viennese court composer Salieri (Ennio Fantastichini), who fobs him off as librettist on lesser-favored Mozart (Lino Guanciale). As they work on “Don Giovanni,” art predictably mirrors art, with womanizing Lorenzo caught between jealous divas (Ketevan Kemolidze, Cristina Giannelli) and a purer love (Emilia Verginelli). Apart from lending ailing Mozart familiar pathos, the script is skin-deep, perfs likewise. Painted, digitized and projected backgrounds lend a fanciful, theatrical touch to this prettily mounted effort, but flat progress eventually wears out the welcome even of dubbed operatic segments.

I, Don Giovanni

Austria - Italy - Spain

Production

An Edelweiss Production in association with Mibac, Radio Plus, Intervenciones Novo Film and RAI Cinema. (International sales: Roissy Films, Paris.) Produced by Andrea Occhipinti, Andreas Vincente Gomez, Igor Uboldi. Directed by Carlos Saura. Screenplay, Saura, Raffaello Uboldi, Alessandro Vallini, from a story idea by Uboldi.

Crew

Camera (color), Vittorio Storaro; editor, Julia Juaniz; music, Mozart; production designers, Paola Bizzarri, Birgit Hutter. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentations), Sept. 11, 2009. Italian, Spanish dialogue. Running time: 126 MIN.

With

Lorenzo Balducci, Lino Guanciale, Emilia Verginelli, Tobias Moretti, Ennio Fantastichini, Cristina Giannelli, Ketevan Kemolidze, Sergio Foresti, Borja Quiza, Carlo Lepore, Francesca Inaudi, Franco Interlenghi.

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