Saturday, February 20, 2010

Venice Proud and Pretty

Magnet # 173:  Venetian Illustration in Book

Material:  Wood, Plastic

Purchased By:  Dad

Whenever I see this magnet, I can't help but think of my all-time favorite film, Dangerous Beauty, which was released on this day in 1998.  If you've never heard of it, you're not alone.  Warner Bros. didn't do a very large ad campaign for it, and it was released in a limited amount of theaters.  It did well at first, but then faltered, only earning 4.5 million in the United States.  I wasn't even able to see it then - it wasn't showing anywhere nearby.  But I watched when Siskel & Ebert (boy, I miss those two) reviewed it, giving it Two Thumbs Up and I was intrigued.  I made a point to see it as soon as it came out on VCR, and boy, am I glad I did.

Dangerous Beauty tells the story of Veronica Franco, who lived in 16th century Venice.  Unbeknownst to her, she comes from a long line of courtesans, highly educated women who are paid lovers to some of the richest and most powerful men in society.  Veronica has dreamt about Marco Venier for years, and is elated when he falls in love with her.  But, as he comes from a rich and powerful family, he is forced to tell her he can never marry her.  The heartbroken Veronica soon takes after her mother's example and becomes a courtesan.  With her beauty and quick wit, she becomes Venice's most sought-after courtesan as well as a published poetess.  There's even a point where she reads her poems from a book that resembles this magnet.  However, she cannot stop loving Marco, nor he her.  And when her life is eventually threatened, he puts his own on the line to try to save her.  Yes, it is a very romantic story, and it's based on the real-life Veronica Franco, but it's also the presentation of this film that I fell in love with.  Both the sights and sounds of this film make it the most beautiful I have ever experienced.  It's set in Venice, so it has the stunning architecture of that gorgeous city in backgrounds throughout the film.  The shots are so so well-lit and composed that they only add to the inherent beauty of the city.  And the costumes are sumptuous and stunning - there are bodices and long, flowing skirts complemented by impressive jewelry, elaborate hairstyles, and flawless makeup.  The film has an original score by George Fenton which greatly adds to its emotional impact.  I have the soundtrack and I listen to it pretty often - it's just beautiful.  Plus, there are a number of talented actors featured in the film - Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell star and they're supported by Oliver Platt, Fred Ward, Moira Kelly, Naomi Watts, and Jacqueline Bisset.  All of them turn in fantastic performances.  The story is interesting, particularly from a female perspective, even though it does have a bit of a Hollywood ending.  But it is justifiably rated R, so you might want to skip it if you're not fond of nudity and sensuality.

Ever since I first saw this film, it has been my favorite.  I rented it countless times, and even had my Mom get it for me once.  She went into the rental store and couldn't remember the name, so an employee tried to help her.  She told him it was for her daughter and he suggested the newest Disney release, and she said "no, it's the one with the prostitute."  Apparently, he reacted as if she'd slapped him.  This was back when new VCR releases cost ninety bucks and you had to wait for it to come out priced for consumers to buy.  I had my name on the wait list at Suncoast for months and was there on the day it was released - and that's the only time I've ever done that for a film.  When I saw Lindsay Archer had listed it among her favorites on her Myspace page, it was the moment I knew I had to meet her.  I even made friends with someone else when she was trying to describe her favorite film to me and I realized it was Dangerous Beauty.  Apparently, it's not only had a big impact on my life.  It inspired a pair of women to start their own performing troupe of courtesans, Bella Donna.  There's plenty of information about them at  If you've never given this incredible film a try, you might want to consider it, especially if you're a fan of period films.  As for me, this is a good reminder to pop it in once again - perhaps in the DVD player this time.  But I'll always keep that old VCR copy - it's just too special to me to ever throw out.


  1. Thanks for the movie recommendation! Going to watch it tonight. Usually I catch most of these types of films, but I'm guessing I confused it with Dangerous Liaisons due to the similar name and thus figured I'd already seen it.

  2. That's great - I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Wow! Do you get any recompsence for promoting a movie so enthusiastically? Seriously, your admiration for this movie makes me want to see it and add Venice to my list of cities that I must visit again.

  4. I doubt it - but if they'd like to send me an official magnet to add to my collection, I'd be thrilled. I hope you like it if you get a chance to watch it, and I'd love to see Venice myself someday.