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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 11 June 2007
I really don't know why this film has three titles! What I can tell you is that it is a beautifully produced picture of life in 16th Century Venice. If you love Venice you can't miss this! Especially if you love the "Carnivale" there because this is such a visual treat with masses of gorgeous frocks! On a more serious note it is also the almost true life story of the amazing Veronica Franco, a woman of talent, education and spirit who was a poetess and powerful courtesan. Her profession was not of her choice but rather expected of her because of her class and the joy of the story is that her constant love for one man was not impinged upon at all by the nature it, nor his for her.

The opening credits give a sunny, colourful picture of Venice of the time but I felt that the drama itself took a little time to warm up and for the characters to settle into their parts convincingly. Once it gets off the ground though it is memorable, with many fine cameo parts by a galaxy of good actors. The courtroom scene was full of suspense and made a riveting climax. Although Veronica is given the philosophy of a modern feminist to expound in this scene, one wonders if the real truth is that she inspired love in the hearts of so many of her admirers that she would have survived if she had said nothing at all!

I have been waiting for this on DVD for ages - but all those titles made it difficult to find! Must rush off and book a visit to Venice.....
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on 24 August 2001
This is a fantastic, passionate romp of a film. A great, sweeping swashbuckler of a romance - with a twist: the swashbuckler in question is a woman. A film for true romantics and lovers of good old fashioned adventure stories.
The central lead played by Catherine McCormack, is an extremely intelligent, brave beautiful young woman in renaissance Venice. Coerced into the role of Courtesan she plays the part with honour and independence of mind.
One of my top three films of last year (along with American Beauty and Saving Grace, for anyone who wants to know). Its just so DIFFERENT from the mindless violence type of adventure offered up by Hollywood. It has a real feel of fantastic early cinema - Imagine an Errol Flyn film blended with a great Katherine Hepburn movie and you'll have a pretty good idea of what you're in for.
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This film claims it is a true story at the start, but it's a very dubious version of the real Veronica Franco's story. Despite that, however, it is a glorious romp of a movie, at least for the first two thirds. Filmed in a sort of golden 'Renaissance' light like Italian paintings come to life, it wallows in its own glorious decadence. The beautiful Veronica, unable to marry her love since her family can't afford a dowry, instead becomes a courtesan, trained by her mother, and rises in Venetian society. Full of seductive garden parties, Venetian salons, poetry competitions and the allure of sex, this part of the film works wonderfully.

The problem comes when the film attempts to deconstruct the glamorous side of being a courtesan, which is, after all, just a prostitute dressed up in beautiful clothes and accomplishments. Veronica's struggle, and her trial under the Venetian inquisition, takes the film into a darker arena that sits very uncomfortably with the first half. It's not well-written enough to really engage with this, and the Hollywood treatement of her release spoiled everything that had gone earlier.

The real Veronica Franco was far, far more fascinating than this film makes out, and didn't, of course, have the same kind of Hollywoood romantic gloss to her life. Rosenthal's The Honest Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and Writer in Sixteenth-century Venice (Women in Culture & Society), the first full-length study of Franco in English, was cited as the base of this film. It's a proper academic study of her life and writings in their social, economic and historical context, and while it may be hard going for a non-academic reader, it still reveals a more complex mind and society than this film even tries to.

So overall I loved this film for its pure indulgence and beauty but felt uncomfortable when it tried to deal with anything darker or more realistic. Sadly there's a really good reason why this failed at the box-office despite the always-wonderful Rufus Sewell.

ps. Veronica Franco's poems and letters are available at a reasonable price on Amazon Poems and Selected Letters (Other Voice in Early Modern Europe) if you're interested in exploring the reality behind the fiction.
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on 20 October 2007
..if you are a romantic like me, then Dangerous Beauty is a must watch, it is one of my favourite films, and is truly beautiful. The acting is brilliant, Catherine Mccormick is excellent as the leading lady, and the love story between her character Veronca and that of Marco played by Rufus Sewell, is in my opinion one of the best i have ever seen in a movie... watch this film its great!
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on 14 February 2003
This delightful film has quickly become a firm favourite.
The story is light & fun but based on a true story which encourages you to think & raises some interesting questions. Much of the scriptwriting is closely linked to the writing of the heroine (which I was prompted to read after watching this film). I have enjoyed this film on many levels.
The story is compelling as you step inside the lives of women in 15th century Europe where the only women allowed inside a library were women. Where women played a key role as courtesans or mistresses in the affairs of state but were so limited in assuring their own safety & futures. It does not glamorise the role of a courtesan but highlights the limited options for spirited women at the time.
The tensions between the church & women are still relevant today, and it is interesting to see how the views on women at this period, when the Bible was first made available to the people (through the reformation) have influenced its current (mis)interpretation.
There are also beautiful scenes which transport you to how Venice would have looked during this time, with the unique architecture, beautiful costumes & contrasting opulance with poverty.
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on 25 November 2008
I have been searching for this film for some time now. When I owned it on VHS it had the title 'The Honest Courtesane' and I couldn't track it down on DVD then flicking through Amazon I managed to track it down and am delighted to have added it to my collection again.

The one thing that has remained with me about this film is it's sheer decadence of filmography relaying the splendour of Venice during the life of Veronica Franco. It is highly colourful and beautiful and the soundtrack from the film has remained a top favourite on my ipod for many years now.

A truly beautiful and touching story about a womans struggle to remain connected to her true love after his marriage through her life as a courtesane. The acting by Catherine McCormack is wonderful as we watch her transform into an independent and beautiful woman from that of a rather shy and obstinate young girl at the start. If you liked Cassanova then this one might be for you.
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We are told at the start of "Dangerous Beauty" that this is based on a true story, and indeed Veronica Franco was a well-born Venetian beauty during the Renaissance who decided to become a courtesan. The argument is that for an intelligent woman this was a better choice than being forced into an arranged marriage with some old rich guy or to end up poor. This is especially true when Veronica (Catherine McCormack) is told by the man she loves, Marco Venier (Rufus Sewell), that they cannot marry because they are in different classes of Venetian society. So when Veronica's mother, Paola Franco (Jacqueline Bisset) reveals that she had once been a successful courtesan, the daughter is persuaded to follow suit, especially once her mother tells her that a courtesan can go one place that is off limits to other women: the great library of Venice.
I had two major concerns in watching this movie. The first was the idea that this was a true story, because I had the feeling at some point my credulity on this score was going to be tested. This indeed turned out to be the case, because at the climax of this film Veronica ends up being called before the Inquisition and being one of the most public prostitutes in Venice actually turns out to be an advantage. Veronica might not be a saint like Joan d'Arc, but apparently some sins are much better than others in Venice in those days. The second was that Rufus Sewell was in the film, and having seen him in "A Knight's Tale" and the "Helen of Troy" mini-series, I was predisposed to think of him as a bad person. Yes, this 1998 movie was made before either or those productions, but such was my thinking and it took me a while to understand that his character was actually a good person, albeit one constrained by the strictures of his society and class.
Just as I was surprised by who was to be the "hero" in this film, relatively speaking, I was equally surprised by the villain turning out to be Oliver Platt, who plays the studious Maffio Venier. Veronica makes her public reputation as a courtesan due in large part to a verbal duel she has with Maffio, but when she refuses his attention because she values his friendship, the duel become a more literal one. Maffio then goes in the completely opposite direction and comes up with a logical, but unexpected way of bringing her to task for her refusal. This sets up the big finish, where Veronica learns that she apparently she is tolerated more than respected, despite the service she has done to her city-state.
This is only the second film that Marshall Herkovitz has directed, the first being 1993's "Jack the Bear," although most would be familiar from his work on television's "thirtysomething," "My So Called Life," and "Once and Again." I did not know if I realized how often Herkovitz's constant partner Edward Zwick was doing the work behind the camera. Of course in any sort of costume drama the key is to have a good cinematographer (Bojan Bazelli), art direction (Stefania Cella and Gianni Giovagnoni), set direction (Ian Whittaker), and costumes (Gabriella Pescucci), and Herkovitz has all of those in his favor. However, in the end I am curious as to whether the ending was originally in Margaret Rosenthal's book or created by Jeannie Dominy's script, because if I had not been told upfront that this was essentially a "true" story, I would have been judging the big finish quite differently and probably not as harshly.
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on 27 July 2002
your typical period drama/romp but with a clever take on it-- the woman is the one in control. Veronica a 16th century feme fatale, a courtesan who has the men of venice worshipping her, however, things turn nasty when the catholic inquisition comes to town.....
P.S. this is a true story.
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on 29 March 2000
This elegant story filmed beautifully, depicts a fabulous love story and commitment to a cause, Catherine Maccormack is as gorgeous as ever playing a confident articulate and self-assured woman totally believing in her cause, closely followed by the delicious Rufus Sewell playing a loveable charmer, whose dashing good-looks made him most aptly cast for the part. This film is a joy to watch, with comedy, love, drama and beauty, and absolute treasure!
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on 14 April 2014
what a wonderful movie...the story is rather interesting ... as it tells a lot of actual history in a great , entreating and amusing movie...

i loved it the first time and all the following times afterwards :)
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