As a man who views films as literature, for me, I find few films uphold a "this world" ethic and that makes this work a phenomenal achievement against films that seem to revere drug dealers, drug users, and murderers. Catherine McCormack's portrayal is stunning as Franco, who enters the life of a courtesan to be close to her love interest Marco, played by Rufus Sewell.
The majesty of the film lies in its philosophical commentaries. Franco is a direct contrast to the women portrayed of the era. The 'downing a banana in one gulp', contrary to the opinion of a local San Diego film reviewer, is not designed for the enticement of baser film viewers. It is coupled with Franco's demonstration of her intellect, which showed a mind-body unity that Marco's wife Giulia De Lezze, played by the lovely Naomi Watts, finds "obscene." Where sex is viewed as a vile duty, Franco views it as pleasurable. Where women are relegated to the sidelines of society as mere producers of male heirs, Franco pursues her goals actively. Where husbands are chosen for women out of duty, Franco chooses whom she associates and has sex with. She is the Captain of her fate.
The evolution of the conflict between Maffio Venier (played by Oliver Platt) and Franco presents an interesting transition of Venier's unrequited interest in Franco, to envy of Franco's monetary and intellectual success, to his becoming a "repentant" Christian, and finally to his ascension to the position of chief prosecutor in her inquisition as a suspected "witch." The trial of Franco before the Inquisition foreshadows the transition from early Christian civilization, and its lingering moral values, to the burgeoning Renaissance. Facing a sentence of possible death, this conflict climaxes in Franco's uncompromising, unapologetic, and courageous defense of her life and choices. To me, this makes Dangerous Beauty an incredible "sense of life" of film that should not be missed.