Monday, 13 February 2012

Dangerous Beauty (1998)

Rating: 7.5/10

"Desire begins in the mind. It's the wanting that keeps us alive."

As promised, this is my second review of the day.

For my second review I've decided to go all historic-genre on you, and what a better historic era to start with than...the Renaissance.

Disclaimer: as I am indeed a fan of historic films, I will be a little biased tonight and will suggest one of my favorite films of all times; 'Dangerous Beauty'.

Just to give a brief summary of the plot: 'Dangerous Beauty' is the story of a young woman in 16th century Venice, who is forced to make a decision of whether she would like to become a scullery maid, a nun or a courtesan.

[Women in those times, who were not born into a family of wealth and social status had to abandon their idea and the very notion of finding 'love' in the conventional sense and instead were destined for a life of mental and social imprisonment. Only few women had the luxury of knowledge and total freedom over their mind and body; the courtesans, aka modern day escorts/luxury escorts.]

The story follows the path of a young woman, Veronica Franco, who decided to become a courtesan, thus unable to ever be with her one true love, Marco Venier, who coincidentally happened to be a senator of Venice.

The story is based on true historical figures, but the narration and the plot are obviously fictitious.

The film was released round about the same time that 'Shakespeare In Love' came out (with Gwyneth Paltrow & Joseph Fiennes), and thus it was completely overshadowed and under-received by the mass public in its release.

First time I happened to stumble upon this film I was 16 years old and had no idea what a courtesan even was. One look at the performance of Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt and Jacqueline Bisset was all that it took to get me hooked into the themes and the era completely.

It's a generic film, giving you the all feminist plot of 'I-am-a woman,-therefore-I-can-do-anything-and-dazzle-everyone,-not-only-with-my-beauty-but-with-my-brains-as-well'. This subplot definitely leads the film into a more feministic thematology, but what really is extraordinary about this film is the heartfelt performances given out.

A small indie production it may have been, but that did not stop the cast and the crew to overwhelm the audience by the dazzling scenery of the golden age of Venice, the poetic and witty dialogue and the incredible romance that unfolded between Veronica and Marco.

For many years, this film got me so engulfed I started an individual search on the real lives of the historic figures, and indeed Veronica's poems and publications proved how real life withstood the social conventions of the time and scrutinized the authorities for women's submission into the State of Venice.

Subtle cinematography, very delicate direction from Marshall Herskovitz, who based his film on Margaret Rosenthal's book 'The Honest Courtesan' and a mesmerizing music score by acclaimed composer George Fenton.

It would be exceptionally stupendous of me not to mention the full on detailed production of the costume design in the film, which was made by Gabriella Pescucci; the flare of the 16th century costume of every courtesan and state wife in the film was a tremendous task which in retrospect, it's costume designer lived up to the expectations of making the gowns of that era come to life.

This is my favorite film because it is a film I can watch over and over again, without getting bored of the performances, the plot and the cinematic narration. Also, since I do love films that belong into an underdog category, I consider this film exceptionally well-made for its budget and standards.

I would mostly recommend this if you're into the historic genre or costume drama. As not many people are these days, since for some inexplicable reason the youth today would trade quality films for the closest blockbuster, I would say that films such as this is not everyone's cup of tea...but unless you do try it you will never know how good it tastes.

Have a good evening everyone!

See you at tomorrow's double bill review with a blockbuster suggestion (yes, indeed!) and also a World War II underdog film!

Dangerous Beauty (1998)
*This is the intro of the film, as I could not find a suitable trailer without spoiling anything, this will 2-minute intro will have to suffice.*

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