Dangerous Beauty

In Dangerous Beauty, a young woman that must turn to being a (well) paid plaything for the rich and powerful men of Venice.

Many people today would like movies to reflect the more politically correct atmosphere prevent today. This can not be held for period pieces that hope to convey the morals and attitudes found many years ago.

Dangerous Beauty is one such film, it presents a time and place far different from today. If you were a young woman in 16th century Venice, the paths your life could take would be very limited. You could marry if your family had connections and money, marriage being more a contract than a profession of love. You could go into menial labor such as a scullery maid, which would offer nothing but years of back breaking labor for very little return. You could be a maidservant to a rich lady, always in her shadow, owning little for yourself. At that time and place there was one other option for a bright, attractive and ambitious woman, become a courtesan. This is the advice that young Veronica Franco receives from a most unexpected person, her mother.

This is the heart of Dangerous Beauty, a young woman that must turn to being a (well) paid plaything for the rich and powerful men of Venice. There were advantages to the arrangement, while ladies could not enter a library, courtesans could. A courtesan with a wealthy patron could even have a book of poetry published. Such things were unheard of for other women. Add to this a complex love triangle (or maybe a polygon), impending war and family jealousies and you have a captivating tale, a tale that was based upon the real story of the young poetess/courtesan.

The cast of Dangerous Beauty looks as if they were born to the times. They wear their roles so easily, far more easily than it must have been for the heavy period costumes. Catherine McCormick (Braveheart) plays the young courtesan. She moves with a grace and style that leaps out of the screen. She also shows some degree of talent in adding little comic touches which prevents the film from bogging down in it’s own seriousness. The scenes where her mother (Jacqueline Bisset) teaches her the tricks of the trade are comical yet extremely sensual. The object of Catherines’ affections is played by Rufus Sewell (Dark City). He appears a bit contrived during many of the scenes, seeming better suited for more action-oriented roles, but still believable as a young man on the rise in Venice. Character actor Oliver Platt delivers one of the best performances of Dangerous Beauty. In one scene he enters into a dual of rhymes with Catherine which turns into a deadly sword fight.

Director Marshall Herskovitz constructs a beautiful tapestry in Dangerous Beauty. The lighting set design and the framing of each shot well planned and carefully executed. Still, the pacing could have used more work. Dangerous Beauty is sluggish in several spots and gets bogged down. His previous directing experience included teen TV cult classic, My So-Called Life and thirtysomething. The over-dramatic approach may work in such a venue but here he could have played it in a bit more of a subtle manner.

The Dangerous Beauty DVD has only minimal added features. The audio is very good but lacks a bit in the surround tracks. The video transfer was clear and fully exhibited the wonderful cinematography. A woman, Jeannine Dominy wrote the movie, and it shows Catherine as a woman well versed in sex but also fully rounded in her intellectual accomplishments. Although there are some flaws, Dangerous Beauty is an excellent choice.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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