When Charlie Barnum chooses to relinquish all responsibility to the binary choices determined by a deck of playing cards, he drags his wife and friends into a dangerous adventure in lust, excess and possibly even murder.Charlie Casanova
is the directorial debut of Irish filmmaker Terry McMahon
and is finally making its way to cinemas some two years after it was originally shot. The story of the films gestation is an interesting one: in reaction to many years of frustration with film financing, McMahon
managed to find much of his cast, crew and funding through a messages posted to Facebook
and has been debuting the film at festivals around the world, garnering awards and rave reviews along the way.McMahon’s
drive is certainly commendable; willing a feature film into being with a non-existent budget in the middle of an economic depression is quite the feat. And I’d like to be able to say that the hard work of cast and crew was worth that unpaid toil. But it wasn’t.Charlie Casanova
is a mess. From its opening moments, fuelled by the first of many overbearing monologues to its ludicrous and ambiguous finale, hardly a scene passes which isn’t either crass, offensive, ill-conceived or technically incompetent. Sometimes all four at once.
I am aware of the message that McMahon
is trying to get across, the raging cry about the impotence of modern man, the full-throated roar targeted at working class and middle class alike. The audience is subjected to seemingly never-ending monologues from leading man Emmet Scanlan
, who spews out chunks of pseudo intellectual garbage about choice, freedom and class superiority.Scanlan’s
performance will be a sticking point for many viewers. Better known now for his role as Brendan Brady on Hollyoaks, there’s no denying that the young Irishman is totally committed to the excesses of Charlie. He adopts a drawling, abrasive style of delivery and near epileptic physical quirks which serve to heighten the already oversaturated character. Next to the rather small and naturalistic performances of the other actors, it often comes off as absolutely bizarre but nevertheless it can be mesmerising in small doses. Though it comes close to being undone during a hopelessly extended stand up routine.
Beyond the abrasive tone and poorly wrought ideas, Charlie Casanova
is often technically inferior. The camerawork is hopelessly dull, often shot from a single angle with jerky zooms and a picture quality that resembles 1990s DV cam. The editing is little better, rarely feeling the need to shift to a new perspective (though that might be the only coverage they had) and featuring not only an overuse of ugly post production slow motion on nearly every cut but also an appalling digital zoom late in the game.Charlie Casanova
wants to be a powerful invocation to the downtrodden man, it wants us to look at Charlie and see ourselves, see the wild, untethered humans we could be if we could only sidestep the rules of society. But McMahon
is so intent on drawing a gut reaction from the audience with scene after scene of indignity, cruelty and entry level nihilism that even he seems to forget what point he was initially trying to make.