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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