i just finally saw the 2005 russell t. davies miniseries casanova, the show that david tennant (the one in the middle, above, looking like the cat that, er, ate the canary) starred in before becoming the doctor. i really liked it and had fun matching familiar faces to the parts they played in doctor who and other BBC shows i've seen. tennant plays young casanova. peter o'toole plays old casanova. it's hard to say which one is better.
this is a rollicking confection of a tale about the so-called "world's greatest lover," giacomo casanova -- or, in the show, "jack" ... hmmmm ... for short -- a venetian who lived in the 1700s and was smart enough (and lived long enough) to write down his amorous adventures for all posterity. as we know, the name pretty much means "womanizer." so you can sorta guess what a lot of the show is about.
what's wonderful about it: it has that cheeky RTD touch, is a riot of bright colors and energetic music and contemporary dialogue, and is shot through with that same love of humanity, and compassion for it, that RTD has emphasized in DW: the notion that no sin is too great to be forgiven, and that kinship can be found between people who may seem quite unlikely to connect. plus, it is quite revelatory in how tennant sounds and acts a frightening LOT like the tenth doctor he will become, right down to the "sorry, so sorrys" and breathless chatter. oh, and the running. love the running! which is what one should expect to be doing when one is a lover of women who, for the most part, "belong" to someone else.
it's a bit shocking (though not at all disturbing) to see tennant-as-casanova in flagrante, joyfully fucking away in everything from plush beds to convent corners, baring his semi-hairy chest and tiny brownish-pink nipples. as the doctor, he's so chaste. he doesn't ever take his shirt off, which even christopher eccleston had to do in that torture scene in "dalek." casanova had sex with sisters and ingenues and matrons and nuns -- and tennant seems to revel in it all. which, who can blame him? and the peter o'toole version of casanova is quite passionate still about his methods and his motives. as though he really did "love" them all. the mark of a true lothario. ahaha.
as crazy-sexy-cool as the series is, and i can't speak for the historical accuracy, there's a throughline of poignancy: the woman jack loves the most, henriette, is the one he cannot have. as an old man he becomes recharged by the idea of meeting her again, and the young woman to whom he's telling his tale uses that rekindled ardor to help him through his most difficult journey.
and, boy, did he have journeys: from venice to paris to london to naples to bohemia ... and probably more i forgot about. as he flees venice he's saddled with a son, who is the perfect tiny emo boy and eventually grows up to be syd from state of play (aka tom burke). and who, neglected and subjected as he is to his father's naked egotism, also provides casanova with a horrible mirror reflection -- a bitter image of himself, stripped to cold seduction, all his charm and playfulness turned to cruel vengeance and revelry in exacting it.
that's the bitter lesson, i suppose. but the hope of reunion with henriette -- the simple fact that he still can hope for that -- is the sweet one.