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Film Review - Dangerous Beauty
I wouldn't have guessed that I was going to like this film. A costume drama set in early 16th century Venice about the life of a Courtesan. Sounds like a chick-flick. I like costume dramas. I like historical events. This film is based on a real person's life. It's that chick-flick stigma that would have kept me away.
There's a reason men don't like chick-flicks. They're boring. Nothing happens and usually Meryl Streep ends up crying through half of the film. Men don't like to watch women cry. The only reason I watched this was a friend thrust the DVD into my hands and said, "This is a good film, I've seen it three times." Never-mind it was a woman doing the recommending. She knew what a bad time I would give her if the film was a chick-flick.
Dangerous Beauty isn't your run of the mill women slinging snot, whoa-is-me replacement for sleeping pills. It's about the struggle of women in a male dominated world. During this period, women were property, there were three choices available. Marry someone rich, marry someone poor, or marry no one and become a Courtesan. No option was without its measure of degradation.
The plight of the poor is obvious. The Courtesan is a glorified whore. And the woman married to the rich is not much more than a whore in a guilded cage. The only person worth being in Venice at the time was a rich man. You had your politically arranged marriage to produce children, and you had your Courtesan to full fill your sex fantasies.
This is our back-drop. It's well painted, and appears to be shot at least partially in Venice with matte paintings covering up all that is modern. A layer above the back-drop is un-requited love. The Courtesan and a suitor can not marry as they would like. He must marry for political reasons, and she is not quite his class. This disappointment is the event which sends her down the path of courtesan, and creates tension between them as they both can not be what they really want.
To keep the men interested there is nudity sprinkled throughout the film, and the Courtesan herself is an accomplished student in many arts including sword fighting. We perk right up as she gives her rival a right ass-kicking.
The film finally sums up its theme of the subjugation of women with the Courtesan placed on trial with the Holy Inquisition. This scene reminded me of a recent news story where a woman in an Islamic country was convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death, but the man who she had relations with went free. It seems now as then that women are blamed for all acts of sin. Men are the victims and not held accountable for their actions.
I am disappointed so many times when I go to the movies. The current Hollywood fair is a feast for the eyes and crumbs for the intellect. Dangerous Beauty makes a few sacrifices on the eyes (some of the matte paintings are terrible) but makes up for it by presenting an engaging story and superior acting. If you liked Shakespeare in Love, you probably will like this film. If you're a guy and this doesn't sound appealing, well... there are tits in it!
Directed by Marshall Herskovitz
Released in 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Reviewed by Mongo