Lucrèce Borgia (1953)
A film directed by Christian-Jaque

Genre: Drama / History

Film Review

Lucrèce Borgia photo
This sumptuous Franco-Italian blockbuster production exemplifies historical film dramas of the 1950s - beautifully shot in Technicolor and showing a meticulous attention to detail in its lavish costume and set design, to say nothing of the exciting, well-choreographed action sequences. Whilst the film may be legitimately criticised for its overly sympathetic portrayal of Lucrezia Borgia (you'd almost think she was heading for a sainthood), it would not be fair to fault its production values. The film looks stunning.

Since the extent of the complicity of Lucrezia Borgia in her brother's Machiavellian schemes is a matter of considerable conjecture, director Christian-Jaque is perhaps justified in presenting her as an innocent party, a pawn in Cesare Borgia's nasty political games. Even so, it's a little difficult to swallow Martine Carol's slightly over-sentimental portrayal of Lucrezia, face stained with tears whenever brother Cesare does the dirty on her. What is missing is some motivation for Lucrezia's acquiescence to her brother's plans - is it sibling loyalty or is she genuinely helpless?

Attractive as the film is, it does have a slightly irksome theatrical artificiality (it doesn't help that Pedro Armendariz's Cesare Borgia has all the subtlety of a stock pantomime villain). That said, the film does pack a few punches. Some of the darker sequences (such as the gruesome man hunt) do have a shocking, almost visceral, realism, making the film unsuitable for youngsters. Likewise, the ending, whilst a tad contrived, has a genuine poignancy about it.
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1498. Rome, the powerhouse of the Renaissance, is governed by the tyrannical Cesare Borgia, a man who has no scruples when it comes to furthering his political ambitions...
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Film Credits

Directed by Christian-Jaque
Starring: Martine Carol, Pedro Armendáriz, Valentine Tessier, Arnoldo Foà, Piéral, Christian Marquand, Tania Fédor, Jean d'Yd, Maurice Ronet, Raphaël Patorni
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