Dangerous BeautyFebruary 20, 1998
A Venetian courtesan becomes a hero to her city, but later becomes the target of an inquisition by the Church for witchcraft.
Release Year: 1998
Rating: 7.0/10 (7,446 voted)
Stars: Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Oliver Platt
In 16th century Venice, courtesans enjoy unique privileges: dressed richly in red, they read, compose poetry and music, and discuss affairs of state with the men who govern the Republic. When Veronica Franco comes of age, she cannot marry Marco Venier, whom she loves, because she is well born but penniless. Her choice: cloister or courtesan. She steels her heart, and with beauty and intelligence becomes the best. She's a heroine when she helps convince France to aid Venice in war with Turkey, but when plague descends, the Church charges her with witchcraft. At her inquisition, she must match wits with an old rival, speak for all women, and call courage from Venier.
Writers: Margaret Rosenthal, Jeannine Dominy
Giulia De Lezze
Born without privilege. Bound by tradition. She found the courage to follow her heart.
Release Date: 20 February 1998
Filming Locations: Odescalchi Castle, Bracciano, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Opening Weekend: $105,989
(22 February 1998)
(5 July 1998)
Did You Know?
Bolognetti (David Gant) puts Veronica (Catherine McCormack) on trial in
Dangerous Beauty; he also plays a similar role in
Braveheart where he puts William Wallace (Mel Gibson) on trial. The connection? Catherine McCormack played Wallace's wife in Braveheart.
At the end of Veronica's sword fight with Maffeo, Veronica jumps into the gondolas. As she does so, she discards the black cape she already had thrown down on the staircase in both gondolas.
Courtesans, my dear, are the most educated women in the world.
An excellent adaptation of a scholarly work
For me the power of this movie rests in its faithfulness to Margaret
Rosenthal's book the Honest Courtesan; which is a well-researched look at
Veronica Franco's life and the plight of Venetian women in the 16th century.
Dangerous Beauty, while making certain assumptions and taking some literary
license, was a talented translation of Rosenthal's careful research into a
captivating film. Many of the witty remarks and social commentary come
directly from 16th century documents. Surprisingly the most unbelievable
aspect of the movie (her escape from the Inquisition and support from
prominent Venetian nobles) is historical fact. While the details are unknown
and the movie is certainly more romatically dramatic than I would imagine
the actual historical event, it was very true to the spirit and feel
supported by the evidence we have.
Venetian women, and indeed most medieval women, were in an unenviable
position as second class citizens. Veronica Franco's struggle to find an
acceptable position in society as a woman of good family but poor, is
representative of the moral and societal conflicts of her time. Courtesans
were not respected but they were accepted as a necessary evil. Their income
was even taxable! In a society where female chastity was considered
sacrosanct if she were to marry and a marriage bed was no less for sale than
a courtesan's, women's choices were limited indeed. Franco's impassioned cry
in the movie "I did what was necessary to survive!" is no less true were it
not a verbatim report of her defense. As a penniless girl her options were
limited to scullery work, the nunnery or prostitution. Her distinction was
that, while she chose to sell her body, she never chose to be dominated by
her profession or those who sought her out. In publishing her book of poetry
and personal letters, she redefined herself as a woman first and a courtesan
second. Using her wit to defend herself in the public arena she skillfully
manipulated accepted literary mores of the day to show her mastery of the
literary as well as political implications of her position.
Her greatest detractors were courtiers, such as Maffio Venier, who competed
with courtesans for the money bestowed by wealthy patrons. As she says in
the movie, they must both sing for their suppers. The problem is that while
she is willing to accept they are equal in their need of patronage, he is
unwilling to be outdone by a woman. His misogynistic works of poetry were
directed toward Franco and other courtesans with the intent of parading his
own virtue by damning theirs. The greatest irony is that Maffio was
ultimately killed by a sexual disease while Franco died of causes unrelated
to her sexual practices.
While there are those who might see this movie as an acceptance of
prostitution, I believe they are missing the true story behind the sexual
facade which they are focusing on. Franco's life was one of courage and
honesty. She made choices that we may not understand, but we do not live in
her world. And she accepted both the privilege and the degradation that her
position brought her. This movie is a powerful tribute to one who sought
more in life than mere existence and who faced her trials with the courage
of her convictions, whether or not we or others share those convictions is