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Dangerous Beauty

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Image credit: Dangerous Beauty, 1998

If you’re looking for a movie that features all the heart, heat, and feminist energy of a romance novel, then look no further than this week’s pick Dangerous Beauty (Disc/Download). Based on the biography of 16th century Venetian courtesan and poet Veronica Franco, this will leave you swooning over sumptuous costumes, moonlit canals, and a powerful woman who chooses learning above all else.

Made during the late 1990s, when small-budgeted, female-centric pictures still had a place within the cinema landscape, Dangerous Beauty stars Catherine McCormack as the beautiful young Veronica who falls in love with Marco, a man far above her social status. Unable to afford the dowry it would take to marry him, and unwilling to settle for a loveless marriage to someone else, she is instead schooled in the ways of seduction by her mother (Jacqueline Bisset), a former courtesan herself. Veronica agrees to this arrangement because being a courtesan means having access to great libraries and learning institutions. Blossoming as a poet and a woman of intellect, she finds success in her profession, never settling for the easy option. Yes, this is a love story between Veronica and Marco, but it is also a story of a woman claiming her power during a time when women didn’t have many options. As she says, “an education is a woman’s greatest and most hard-won asset.” Not marriage.

Beautifully directed by Marshall Herskovitz, this movie will have you longing for romantic rides in a gondola, followed by drinks on a balcony overlooking the canal. Maybe if you’re lucky, someone will drop off a peacock or drunkenly serenade you. While watching Dangerous Beauty, I recommend mixing up a classic Venetian Spritz.

Venetian Spritz

1 ½ oz Aperol

3 oz Prosecco

1 ½ oz Soda Water

Green Olive

Orange slice (garnish)

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with an olive and orange slice.

Of course, all good times must come to an end, and in Veronica’s case that means plague, war, and the Spanish Inquisition. But even when confronted with so much darkness, she never loses sight of who she is and what she wants. It sounds weird to say it, but as a teenager watching this movie, I totally wanted to be like Veronica when I grew up. Hell, I still do. Cheers!

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

The Italian Job

italian-job

Image credit: The Italian Job, 2003

I would never advocate drinking and driving, but who says you can’t drink and watch other people drive? This week I’m featuring a high-octane heist movie with cute cars, snappy dialogue, and Venetian scenery. The Italian Job (DVD/Download) is essentially the 4th Ocean’s Eleven film, wherein a ragtag group of attractive people steal gold from the bad guy. Although Mark Walburg is certainly no Clooney, those cute Mini Coopers zipping through tunnels and mansions makes up for it.

Although the film is called The Italian Job, precious little of it takes place in Italy. Nevertheless, I love the opening and closing shots of the Venetian canals. In real life I know St. Mark’s Square to be covered in dive-bombing pigeons, however in the movies it always looks so lovely. The bulk of the story takes place in and around LA as the professional bandits try to out-cross a double-crosser. The story isn’t terribly original, but it is a lot of fun. Supporting turns by Mos Def and Seth Green provide a good dose of comedy, and this is the one and only Jason Statham movie I have wanted to watch all the way through. So there’s that.

My cocktail this week is a little obvious, but no less delicious. Strong and smooth, like Charlize Theron cracking open a safe, it will have you dreaming of Venetian sunsets. While watching The Italian Job, I recommend drinking a Negroni.

Negroni

1 oz gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth

Citrus peel

Stir gin, Campari, and vermouth together gently in a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with citrus peel.

negroni

The 2003 version of The Italian Job is one of the few remakes of a classic film that I actually like. I hesitate to even call it a remake of the 1969 version with Michael Caine because it’s really so different. I may have traded in my Mini for the Fiat Pop, but I’ll always have a fondness for Mini Coopers because of this movie. And now, Italian cocktails. Cheers!