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Don Juan DeMarco (1994, Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando)

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Psychiatrist Jack Mickler (MARLON BRANDO) delays his retirement when intrigued by a young man who claims descent from Don Juan (JOHNNY DEPP). The self-styled swashbuckler certainly justifies the claim to power over women but the story he tells about his background, involving a duel to the death over his father’s honour in a Mexican village, a sojourn during which he has the run of a harem and a passionate love for an innocent girl castaway, leaves much in doubt. When Mickler finds that his marriage to Marilyn (FAYE DUNAWAY) is given a Viagra-like boost, he gladly enters into Juan’s fantasy world.

Jeremy Leven’s feature, his first, is an odd mixture and not quite the equal of the sum of its parts but it certainly intrigues, taking off from literary antecedents rather in the manner of the apochryphal H.G.Wells saga, Time After Time. That Don Juan is convinced of his identity is never in doubt in Johnny Depp’s superbly controlled performance.

To gauge just how maturely Depp handles himself, you only have to imagine any one of his Hollywood contemporaries in the role. It is a fiendishly difficult thing to bring off and Depp never gets remotely close to taking the easy route, which would be to distance himself. Alongside his work in Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Ed Wood and the recently released Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it persuades you that he is the best film actor under 40 working today. Next to Depp, Brando coasts pleasantly enough, his most convincing work to be seen in his touching scenes with Dunaway. But you feel that he doesn’t quite buy Leven’s premise and, if he doesn’t, why should we?

production details
USA | 97 minutes | 1994

Director/Writer: Jeremy Leven
Script: suggested by Byron’s epic poem ‘Don Juan’

cast
Johnny Depp as Don Juan deMarco
Marlon Brando as Dr. Jack Mickler
Faye Dunaway as Marilyn Mickler
Géraldine Pailhas as Dona Ana
Bob Dishy as Dr. Paul Showalter
Rachel Ticotin as Doña Inez
Talisa Soto as Doña Julia
Stephen Singer as Dr. Bill Dunsmore
Jo Champa as Sultana Gulbeyaz
Marita Geraghty as Woman in Restaurant
Richard C. Sarafian as Detective Sy Tobias
Tresa Hughes as Grandmother DeMarco
Carmen Argenziano as Don Alfonzo
Tom Lister Jr. as Rocco Compton

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