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Film / Dangerous Beauty

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Dangerous Beauty is a 1998 American biographical drama movie directed by Marshall Herskovitz that explores the life of Veronica Franco (Catherine Mc Cormack), a courtesan in Venice in the 16th century who at first becomes a hero but later becomes a target by the Church for witchcraft.

The film also stars Rufus Sewell, Oliver Platt, Fred Ward, Naomi Watts, Moira Kelly, Jacqueline Bisset, and Jeroen Krabbé.

It was released on February 20, 1998.


Tropes for the film:

  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Marco Venier refuses to marry Veronica Franco because her family has no money for a dowry. Unable to marry well without a dowry, Veronica has no way to support herself except by becoming a courtesan, literally a whore. Marco eventually persuades her to become his mistress, and they live happily ever after (his wife is less happy about that).
  • Betty and Veronica: Due to her strict, "proper" upbringing, Marco's pious and boring wife is the Betty to the cultured, witty and exciting Veronica.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Happens to both Veronica Franco and Marco Venier. The film portrays Franco as bravely standing up to the Inquisition (which receives a major Historical Villain Upgrade) at her trial for witchcraft, and portrays Venier as being desperately in love with her, and defending her from the Inquisition, and persuading the rest of the Venetian Senate to do so as well. In reality, Veronica Franco was never in any real danger from the Inquisition. They tried her twice for witchcraft and let her go without punishment after she testified to performing rituals solely as entertainment. In fact, the Inquisition regarded accusations of witchcraft as silly superstition, and acquitted accused witches as a matter of course. The film also, in an earlier scene, depicts Franco as a heroine of the Venetian Republic for persuading the king of France, by being just that good in bed, to ally with Venice against the Turks. In real life, King Henry III of France did sleep with Fanco when he visited Venice to negotiate the alliance, but that had nothing to do why he allied with Venice.
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  • I Am Spartacus: A variation occurs when Franco is brought before the Holy Inquisition for her "role" in spreading The Plague that is afflicting Venice at the time, she is sentenced to death for her crime. Just then her lover/favorite client, Marco, points out the hypocrisy of the ruling, since she was not alone in bringing God's wrath to the city state, and that her clients, and any other john who had procured a courtesan, was guilty in engaging in sinful activities, but were not prosecuted because the Church refused to go after the rich and powerful. After calling on all the other men in the court to stand and admit their guilt, the Judge is about to have him arrested when Veronica's other clients, and all the other men in attendance, stand to admit their guilt of having at one point or another acquiring the services of a prostitute.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The wives of Veronica's clients are understandably jealous of her, and see her as a corrupting influence on their husbands. At the same time, they resent the power, knowledge and independence she has acquired through her trade, and are clearly very uncomofortable when they are forced to come to her for news on the war.
  • Single Mom Stripper: The film is about a 16th-century woman who becomes a courtesan to support herself and her mother.
  • The Mistress: Veronica becomes this to Marco after having been a courtesan.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: The film portrays high class 16th Century Venetian prostitution in a glowing light. There's a scene where lower class prostitutes are shown to be in desperate shape, but for the most part, prostitution is looked upon as a way to empower intelligent women, allowing them to interact with wealthy men on their own terms. Of course, the film totally overlooks the fact that its main character had, in the Real Life story this movie was based on, six kids with her high class lover. Oh, and also, the earliest, most virulent form of syphilis was raging through Italy at the time, making prostitution a dangerous gamble. However, Veronica does caution a friend who thinks her daughter becoming a courtesan is a good way to get an education and independence against romanticizing this, as it's easy for courtesans to fall from grace and into the dire straits of street prostitution.