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Dangerous Beauty is a film of contrast. It begins with the often funny, and
simple story of a woman in love. Sadly her lover is from a rich family, and
ordered to marry because of status, and not because of love, leaving this
beautiful woman heartbroken. To become a person of status herself, and make
money doing so, her mother teaches her to become a courtesan, a sort of well
respected, high class, prostitute. She becomes so good at what she does that
she can court kings and bishops as well as the common man. Life is wonderful
for this beautiful woman. She learns to live with the hatred cast upon her
from the other women of the town, and makes a nice fortune doing what she
does best. She is beautiful, but also intelligent, and her mind is what
makes her the best. While other women can compete with her beauty or her
prowess, none can compete with her mind.
The movie takes a turn as the plague comes to Venice, and the high class call girl is reduced to a common whore, and charged with witchcraft, casting her spell on all the men of the town. The question then becomes can her intelligence help her escape from persecution that her body got her into?
This is an intelligently written, and beautifully filmed movie that has a lot of laughs and a lot of love.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dangerous Beauty, featuring Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell is an
amazing rendition of the story of a famous 16th century Venetian
courtesan and poet, Veronica Franco that is pulled from the book by
Margaret Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan.. It delves deep into the
politics of the era with a seriousness that doesn't come off completely
overwhelming. Amidst the serious politics is the witty and comic banter
of the characters to keep it somewhat light-hearted.
Veronica Franco (Catherine McCormack) is in love with Marco Venier (Rufus Sewell) but they are forbidden to marry as she is of a lower social status. Veronica is left with two options, join the convent or become a courtesan. Veronica opts for the latter. Quickly gaining high esteem with her wit and beauty, she becomes one of the top courtesans. Marco, having been forced to marry another woman grows jealous of the men she takes as lovers. They reconnect and Veronica stops taking other clients until war breaks out and she is forced to seduce the king of France to secure his military support. While the war is being fought at sea, plague breaks out and religious zealots claim it is punishment for the city's moral degradation bringing with them the Inquisition.
While the story of this movie is superb, it does tend to feel a bit slow. However, as the story unfolds it ensnares. I found myself completely enveloped in the characters that are all very well portrayed by the actors. Historically, it is not entirely accurate, but again it never claims to be. It is simply a dramatic love story loosely based on events that really happened.
Dangerous Beauty may be seen by some as a feminist movie that supports prostitution, but I see it as a movie that shows what situations were like in the 16th century. Women were not seen as people, but objects to be bought and sold. Veronica Franco was on of the women throughout history that showed that women could be intelligent and have thoughts of their own. People like her have helped shaped the world to promote free thought and diversity.
When I wrote the following review, I had not read the book on which it
is based. Since then I have. The book is a non-fiction book about main
character and her time. I liked it but it is not historical fiction. I
wouldn't recommend it unless you like scholarly non-fiction in feminist
studies. The film claims to be a true story, but it really isn't. Not
that much is known about Veronica Franco's life particularly the first
part of it. There can be conjecture, of course, but the claim of it all
being true is somewhat ambitious. Here is my original review
This film shows the methods a strong and intelligent woman might use to control men while making them feel as if they are in control of her. It shows women being witty, well educated, responsible and cleaver - often more so than men. Such would naturally appeal to many who find few cleaver women represented in modern films.
The production values are good and there is an abundance of spectacle. Venice, itself, is a fascinating and exotic city. Filming there with a good crew and excellent costumes is sure to please and this film comes through in that department. Don't underestimate the value and pleasure of a well shot and costumed film. Many people go to films just to see such things. Even history buffs love to see a film that tries to represent what it must have been like at the time
The film gets weaker when it comes to the script. Not that the script is bad, at times it is cleaver, but the plotting is predictable. The film claims to be a true story, because it was taken from an biography. Assuming the film is faithful to the biography, there are so many improbable things in the film that I would have to question how truthful the author was. (For example: a mother raises her family to adulthood, and they do not know that she was once a famous courtesan in the very town they are living in.) Also it is difficult to imagine how Veronica on her first experience as a courtesan could come out with witty and bawdy poetry done off the cuff to an audience of nobles, when she had previously lived a cloistered existence "perfecting her manners." Yes, she had had practice writing poetry, but not BAWDY poetry. Such things weaken the plot but they do not have to be fatal to the film. they are not major flaws and a film overcome them with strong acting, tight pacing and well handled dramatic moments.
The acting, however, is not the best, and the pacing can sometimes be rather slow - much like the kind of pacing you would see on TV. If you are someone who wants acting that rings true, tight pacing and well handled drama, then this film will not appeal to you.
History has been full of interesting, powerful and capable women. Women who have had incredible influence over men in the highest of positions, and women who have held those high positions without the aid of men. It was a woman, after all, who may have been history's most brilliant General - Joan of Arc. Yet it seems a surprise to many that a movie would "dare" to show that there were such women in history. If you like this movie, I recommend you start reading some history. There is a lot of it that is well written. Historical fiction is also interesting but real history is the best. In fact I think I will pick up a copy of "The Honest Courtesan" on which this film is based. For you see, I am one of those people who wants tight pacing, good acting and well handled drama. While I was disappointed in the film, I have a feeling that I might like the book much better.
I'll confess(no pun to those who've already sen the movie)that my
knowledge on the subject matter that this movie culls from,particularly
the novel by MArgaret Rosenthal,is somewhat slight. I saw this movie
first over ten years ago in the theater powered almost entirely on the
fact that it starred Catherine McCormack, an actress whom I'd become
mildly curious and fascinated (maybe even enamored) with from her short
but affecting role as Mel Gibson's ill-fated wife in "Braveheart". I
decided to buy a cheap copy of the film years later and just recently
re-watched the film,not only to see her again but also give this
movie's whole structure a chance to impress upon me again. Re-watching
had me re-appraising this film.
McCormack's Veronica Franco,a 16th Century learned Courtesan is a vision as a transformation from shy,lovestruck Venetian local to bright,gifted and dutiful servicer to men's desires. Her relationship with the dashing,noble soldier-senator Marco(Rufus Sewell),may lack in anything unique but makes up for in zesty,passionate interplay. The rise and fall of Veronica is almost exactly parallel to the fortunes of her native Venice,and when plague befalls the province,the ire and holy wrath of inquisition makes her an easy target.
This film is lushly,lavishly filmed and,as such,is a veritable feast for the eyes. However(and perhaps I'm telling too much about my own film prejudices and cynicism but...)the conflict of love over expediency,the message of women's place in society and the largely dark shadow that the Roman Catholic church fells upon society seem so commonplace that it makes this film seem almost pedantic and preachy. Also,the friction between Franco and Maffio Venier(Oliver Platt,who is as professional and game as ever here),Marco's cousin and resident courtier,seems somewhat forced,while the conflict between Veronica and MArco's frigid and callow wife(NAomi Watts,nearly unrecognizable!)is left woefully underdeveloped and one-note. Ditto for the friendship between the title character and her warm but non-enterprising friend Beatrice(Moira Kelly).
Overall,the story and product looks and feels great,it just feels like much of the detail and credibility is sacrificed to create a movie that wants to be both inspiring AND erotic,and just able to pull that off. Director Marshall Hershkowitz does a decent job capturing all the sights and sounds to give it the rich emotional as well as visual feel for the era. McCormack's presence(and to a lesser degree Sewell's,Pratt's and Fred Ward's as the Venier's Uncle who takes a great deal of liking to VEronica)elevates this from a mere pedestrian "bodice-ripper" to something that has emotion and sensuality. This film further re-enforces my enjoyment of her presence in movies and my wish to see Miss McCormack in more films.
A good film that wanted to be great. HAving said all that,I still find this worthy of another look(or looks).
One of the better films I've seen. Beautiful stars, great writing,
sensual and intelligent. The storyline kind of merges with the Rule of
Four that I read awhile back; the whole Savanarola 'bonfire of the
vanities' repression in Venice as opposed to Florence.
Venice's role in the Crusades as a starting point and in this movie a war impending with Turkey, I believe, leads me to want to look more into the city's history.
And this movie is based upon a book by Margaret Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan, with another book with similar topic In The Company of The Courtesan by Sarah Dunant now a bestseller. Possibly this could be another book ready to be made into a film.
This movie has everything. And it is based on the true story of a real person. History (unconventional - a glimpse into the reality of life - especially women's lives - in 15th century Venice. Social commentary and cultural insights: religion, superstition, ideas about health/medicine, the influence of power and politics and sex, access to education, freedom of the individual and freedom of the mind. Romance - wonderfully healthy, sensual, erotic without being pornographic - a lesson maybe on what love should be as opposed to most of the things that pass for love in current culture. Incredible quotes and one-liners ( ... "the living hell of being condemned to a life of perpetual insignificance" says Veronica's friend, now safely married but shut away as she asks Veronica to teach her daughter the skills needed to become a courtesan). The brain candy when Veronica and the slovenly court poet get into verbal dueling. I will never tire of those scenes. And the costumes - had to go back and see it once again just for the detail and fabric and lush sensuality of the garb. And in the end, it is simply a morality tale. Hail the true hero/heroine, Veronica Franco, poet, lady, compassionate soul living life fully and honestly. Why she did not receive an Academy Award for Best Actress for this I cannot understand.
The best way I can describe this movie is to call it The Princess
Diaries with a little sex. Like the Garry Marshall film, Dangerous
Beauty is the story of a woman who is instructed by her mother how to
learn the social skills necessary to improve her stage in life. Only
this time it takes place in renaissance Italy and the skills she learns
is how to be a courtesan which is a high class prostitute. Predictably,
there are several (more than 5) montages showing her progress in
learning her craft and plying it.
Most insulting to the viewer's sensibilities is that every one of her clients is good looking and a gentleman with the exception of the King of France. He's a sadistic tyrant who she quickly dominates and lures into supporting Italy in war. This is no spoiler. As with most TV movie style plots the outcome is seen well in advance of them happening. And like a TV movie, this film lacks tension as to any conflict and peril the characters face; you know in the end they'll be okay.
To be brief, Dangerous Beauty is a made for TV movie with a big budget. It is very reminiscent of the movies made for Lifetime.
Although it is well cast and shot on location in Venice the story is simplistic and adolescent in its viewpoint.
I gave it 3 out of 10.
Dangerous Beauty is a tale of passion, duty, lust, kindness, and love. Veronica Franco becomes a courtesan to be able to have the one man she wants, but can't have, Marco. In becoming a courtesan, she learns the ways of men, what pleasures them. In doing so, she becomes the best courtesan in Venice. However, love quickly takes hold of her when she can no longer keep Marco away. Then, when the men are called off to fight the Turks, the plague settles in Venice. The courtesans are blamed, and Veronica is taken into custody. In loving one man, but doing what she could to help her family survive, Veronica shows courage, passion, bravery as she faces the church under the charges of witch craft. It is a fabulous movie and I highly recommend it to anyone.
My husband dragged me to see the second Species movie and I was less than thrilled! But Dangerous Beauty was playing at the theater next door and to make it up to me, we decided to see both movies. We knew nothing about Dangerous Beauty and were ABSOLUTELY AMAZED!!! This film is gorgeous and moving and it even has a bit of action! I love learning about history through entertainment and the story was told very well. Plus, the leading actress, Catherine McCormack is INCREDIBLE!!!!! And Jacqueline Bisset - well, really - you can't go wrong!!!! Do yourself a favor and check out this flick!
I did not even notice when this movie was released to cinemas, and was
aware of it by my local video rental store owner, who, knowing my rental
history, highly recommended it. I was not expecting to see anything but a
fairly good film and was greatly surprised with the highest quality of
everything in this film. The casting, acting, writing of this film was
excellent. The costumes and scenery is stunningly beautiful. The film is
joyful experience to watch and it would not surprise me if this film
a more known and more watched film over time. Most of the people I've
recommended the film to have been very pleasantly surprised.
The tone of the film is high and the look at sexuality is surprisingly healthy, honest and entertaining.
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