Sunday, March 11, 2012

Don Juan Demarco

Written and Directed by Jeremy Leven
Starring Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway.
IMDB Entry

In these beyond-cynical times, romance is very difficult to bring off.  Few movies of recent vintage are out-and-out romantic without being cloyingly sweet.  That is certainly why Don Juan Demarco has been overlooked.

It’s the story of a mysterious young man (Johnny Depp) who claims to be the famous lover, Don Juan.  After attempting suicide, Don Juan is put into a mental institution, where Dr. Jack Mickler (Marlon Brando) decides to determine if he is insane.  It doesn’t help that he insists he is Don Juan, and Dr. Mickler is Don Octavio, his host at the villa where he is staying. 

The movie succeeds almost entirely to Depp.  His Don Juan is not out for conquest, but to bring romance and pleasure to women.  He seduces them with a romantic intensity that is irresistible.  In the example below, his outfit is ridiculous, and his dialog is just this edge of over the top, but Depp manages to make it completely believable:

Don Juan’s first seduction*

Marlon Brando really gets a second placer to Depp in the acting department, though his role has far less for him to do.  Faye
Dunaway is good as Dr. Mickler’s  wife, whose life is affected by Don Juan, too.

Director Jeremy Leven was originally a psychologist when he started writing novels.  He adapted the screenplay of his first novel, Creator, and one more before getting this chance to direct, after which he spent several years without a film credit.  Eventually, he was the scriptwriter for several other romantic comedies,** but none that were so well done.

This is a movie for anyone who believes in love.

*One nice little touch is that, about a hour into the film, you can spot the same woman in the same restaurant, looking longingly at door as she waits for Don Juan to return.

**I dislike the term “romcom” and detest the assumption that a romantic comedy is not for men.

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