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Venetians blind

Culture | A new celluloid superwoman and other cultural buzz

Issue: "Rebel with a cause," Jan. 30, 1998

Hollywood's new feminist role model Warner Bros., meet Women's Studies. That a big studio movie could trot out a Renaissance courtesan as a feminist role model is an indictment of our age. Dangerous Beauty presents Catherine McCormack (Mrs. Braveheart) in the "true story" of Veronica Franco, a poor woman who finds power, education, and respect by selling her body to the elite of Venice. When her equally decadent suitor (Rufus Sewell) announces he can't marry her, poor Veronica is ruined. Enter dear old Mom (Jacqueline Bisset), who tells her she comes from two generations of courtesans and decides to train the young woman in the family business. Veronica soon becomes a beloved citizen of Venice, gets her poetry published, and gets Italy from the Turks. Meanwhile, everything is beautifully photographed, the costumes and sets are lovely, and the dialogue is high-sounding and full of poetry and wit. This is the most insane chick flick ever made. Naturally, there are plenty of rotten religious people running about to make Veronica into a misunderstood martyr. At the end of the movie our heroine is hauled before the Italian Inquisition (you were expecting maybe the Spanish?) for a witch trial. This gives Veronica a chance to launch into a never-ending soliloquy about how she had no other choice and how society and the church are the true villains. Naturally, an intelligent woman like Veronica is a threat to the established order and her chains are a symbol of the defenselessness of pre-modern women. If only those crazy clerics would come back and burn the filmmakers at the stake. Life is a game A would-be cult classic called The Game just hit video stores. It's a brainteaser disguised as a suspense drama. Michael Douglas plays yet another Rich White Male about to be persecuted. Maybe he'll get an Oscar nomination for the role. Let's hope he doesn't. Mr. Douglas is a banker whose wily brother (Sean Penn) decides to spice up his birthday via a mysterious company called CRS. For those willing to pay an extravagant sum, CRS will turn someone's life into an elaborate role-playing game. Figure out the puzzle and you win. Either way, life will never be the same again. Our Rich White Male's life is quickly thrown into a tailspin. His house is trashed, his brother goes crazy, and he's even dumped into a Mexican grave. Every time he tries to get ahead of The Game, everything turns upside down. Unfortunately, the humorless Game plays itself way too seriously. It refuses to poke fun at its own implausibility. After all, self-made millionaires obviously lead empty, meaningless, greedy lives. Every screenwriter knows that they deserve to be tormented. Hollywood wunderkind David Fincher (of Seven and Alien 3 fame) presents 128 minutes of dreary direction. It gets darker-and less enjoyable-with every trap that springs. Plus, the twist ending renders most of the movie pointless. In the end, this bit of hipness is merely another story of a shirt-and-tie guy's going off the deep end. It forgets the fact that, if life is a game, as postmodernist cynics are saying, it has to be played by the rules. Amish chic Another yuppie on the run is Home Improvement's Tim Allen in the rush-to-video movie For Richer, For Poorer. This Rich White Male, along with his Tacky White Wife (Kirstie Alley), are unjustly accused of a crime and lose all their money. So they flee Manhattan and hide out with the Amish. Can I get a "Witness"? This movie makes a show of Mr. Allen's character's crassness by having him looking for investors in a biblical theme park. The attractions include a Tower of Babel exhibit, Noah's Arcade, and a ride called "Torah! Torah! Torah!" After hiding out with the Amish for a few weeks, our heroes decide to mend their ways. Naturally, the couple has all sorts of cheesy misadventures adjusting to traditional ways. One almost expects stars Allen and Alley to start singing the Green Acres theme. But the film tries to stay respectful of the Amish. They aren't treated as ignorant; in fact, the leads are foolish for not respecting them. These Amish talk like Unitarians, however, giving the couple marriage tips and telling them to search their hearts for understanding. All this is mixed together with a heaping helping of sitcom kitschiness. At one point Ms. Alley's character decides Amish women need more colorful dress, so she holds a fashion show for them. Such tackiness should be punished by some serious shunning. While Richer is cinematically bankrupt, there's something oddly intriguing here. We live in a decade with dozens of cynical movies that level society into a postmodern blah. So even a turkey that shows materialists embracing a reactionary lifestyle looks downright refreshing.

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