Dangerous Beauty

Reviewed by Van T. Tran


Warner, widescreen 2.35:1, pan&scan, languages: English & French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French, single-layer, scene selections-34 chapters, rated R, 112 min., $19.98, street date 10/27/98.
Extras: Cast & crew bio, production notes, trailer.

Studio Line

Directed by Marshall Herskovitz. Starring Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Oliver Platt, Moira Kelly, Fred Ward, Jacqueline Bisset.

At a time where women have few rights and are treated like property, the most sensual and captivating woman of her day dares to confront convention to become a powerful force for change.

As passionate a thinker as she is a lover, Veronica Franco (CATHERINE MCCORMACK) defies the cultured but decadent world of 16th-century Venice to assert the rights of women to be respected and loved, no matter what their station in life. With her body, her spirit and her contagious good humor, Veronica transforms the hearts of men - and the fate of women.

MARSHALL HERSKOVITZ directs "Dangerous Beauty," a sweeping story of desire, power, betrayal and redemption set in a gilded world and revolving around the magnetic beauty and intelligence of one extraordinary woman.

Picture/Sound/Extras (C+/C+/C-)

The picture is framed properly at the theatrical ratio of 2.35:1. Images are soft and sometimes seem a bit out of focus, but a case can be made as the film was shot with various soft filters that gently blend colors and light for a very sensuous atmosphere. What isn't excusable is the amount of dirt particles appearing for such a recent print. Also present are some slight video noise, but otherwise no other artifacts. Shadow detail and black are mediocre. Despite all that, the picture has a strong appeal due to the magnificient cinematography of Bojan Bazelli that asserts the beauty and decadent aspects of 16th-century Venice. The pictorial shots of Venice by the Grand Canal exhibit lavish colors and are some of the most gorgeous images in the film. The city is often alive with festivities showing colorfully decorated regattas and gondolas parading down the canals. The production design and costume are elaborate and opulent, matching the finest details of an Ivory-Merchant production.

The encoded soundtrack is limited in the surround activities with subtle presence. What the soundtrack does provide is a sweeping orchestral score composed by George Fenton (The Crucible, Ever After). The classical piece is romantic and rapturous, playfull and energetic, in bringing forth the many facets of the heroine Veronica Franco. The score is enriched by lavish strings and supported by delicate woodwinds and percussion for an immensely enjoyable experience. However, the recorded dialogue sounds thin and poorly integrated at times. I find having the subtitles on to be a good way in following the antiquated expressions and poetry recitals.

The DVD extras includes a helpful bio of the cast and crew, an interesting but brief production notes, and a trailer. Dangerous Beauty is a highly engaging period drama that is full of wit and passion. A compelling "real-life" story that left me unwilling to move until the very end credits. The performances are blessed by a superlative cast. Last appeared in a brief but memorable role as the love interest of Mel Gibson's Braveheart, Catherine McCormack sets the screen ablaze by her captivating beauty and sheer determination, allowing us to observe why men and king were influenced by the courtesan she so successfully protrayed. For Rufus Sewell (Dark City), he has a rare blend of magneticism and intelligent that set him apart from other leading actors.

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