Lucrce Borgia (1953)
Starring: Martine Carol (Lucrèce Borgia), Pedro Armendáriz (César Borgia), Valentine Tessier (Julie Farnese), Arnoldo Foà (Michelotto), Piéral (Le bouffon), Christian Marquand (Paolo), Tania Fédor (La dame d'atours), Jean d'Yd (Le médecin), Maurice Ronet (Perotto), Raphaël Patorni (L'envoyé d'Este), Olivier Mathot (Le sculpteur), Jackie Blanchot (Un spadassin), Joé Davray (Un spadassin), Georges Demas (Un bourreau de Micheletto), Gilles Quéant (Sforza).
Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) born near Rome
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"Under Pope Alexander VI, the Italian Renaissance projects a new light that will change the world. Creative geniuses such as Giotto, Giorgione, Da Vinci, Michelangelo produce the greatest masterpieces the world will ever know. Rome, the eternal city, dominates the spiritual and contemporary world during this astonishing era. These are times of upheavals, subtle politics when you see yesterday's enemies become today's allies."
It is carnival and people in costume are holding hands and dancing around in big circles. They have some interesting sparklers they use. The Borgias (with Spanish roots) dominate the city. Caesare Borgia holds Rome and Italy under his domination. A group of toughs on horseback assassinate a man coming out of his home and then they ride away. They knock a woman down. The woman gets up and says: "How long will we have to bear this Spanish pig?" Her companion tells her to be quiet because the Spaniard's police are everywhere.
A man in a mask asks if Rome is not a free city? He's come from Naples and wants to know. The answer is that here the people are afraid because Caesare Borgia kills his enemies. The man is the master. The stranger asks what about Lucrezia. Well, she outshines all the harlots in Rome. The man from Naples can't believe it for Lucrezia is only 18 years old. A military man brags that he has slept with Lucrezia and she gave him her ring. Soldiers come and arrest him. The stranger is upset by all of this and tells his aide that he wants to be alone.
Lucrezia is pampered by three servants. Her wedding will be soon. She tells the women to go for she wants to be alone. She puts on her cape and goes over to see a sorcerer. He tells her that she will have a true love. He has her look in a shiny plate. Lucrezia sees the masked man from Naples in the plate. The sorcerer urges her to have patience because he is very close. Lucrezia goes out now, but this time wearing a blue facial mask. She gets upset when she hears the dancers singing: "Lucrezia, the most beautiful among the whores." They dance around the blue-masked woman and she cannot get out of the circle. A couple of men grab her and put her in the dance line. As they whirl around in a circle Lucrezia gets dizzy and falls down. The man from Naples rushes over to pick her up. He carries her to a quiet place. The two people take off each others' masks. They are drawn to each other. Mr. Naples caresses the left side of her face and Lucrezia tells him: "I love you."
It is morning now and Lucrezia still does not want to leave her beloved's side. She asks him to kiss her one more time. Then she leaves. Naples tries to ask her what her name is, but she is too busy running away.
Lucrezia returns home. Caesare is mad at her for staying out all night. He tells her that she must stop all these antics for she will be married in ten days. Lucrezia tells her brother that she has already married once before just to obey his wishes. She married a man named Sforz. And now she has to marry a man from Aragon. She says about the man: "I hate him already." Caesare, by the marriage, wants to get his hands on Naples.
It is the day of the wedding. The man from Naples comes in and asks: "Where's the woman I have to marry?" She is, in fact, coming down the steps on the opposite side of the big hall. The two walk to the center of the room. Lucrezia keeps her eyes closed. When she opens her eyes she is relieved to see that it is her love from Naples. Caesare introduces the lord of Aragon, the Duke of Briscelli.
At night after the wedding, Lucrezia wears a beautiful dress, but there's a problem. The duke has been prejudiced against her because of all the terrible things he has heard about her. In fact, he thinks she is a whore. She gets mad and insulted and at first starts playing along with the tales of her bad behavior. But then she changes her tune and says what they say about her are all lies.
Caesare's aide, Micheletto, carries out his boss's orders to take 20 good men from the jails to participate in the games. He gets his men and takes them before an outdoor audience. Micheletto has two old men climb up a high beam stretched between two stands over a large fire. One of the men gets knocked down and falls into the fire. The duke shouts: "This is outrageous watching old men die!" Caesare has the games stopped. He tells the duke that he didn't know that this display would upset him so much. So he suggests they go on a hunt.
Micheletto gets the three strongest prisoners. They will start running and be hunted like beasts. Caesare says that they are hunting wild boars. The dogs pick up the scent of the men and start walking faster. The two older men get separated from the younger man, who has bragged that he has had sexual relations with Lucrezia. The dogs follow the scent of the braggart. When they get closer, the dogs are unleashed. To get away from the dogs closing in on him, the braggarts climbs up on top of some big rocks. And, once again, the duke is shocked for he sees that they have been hunting a human being. He asks Lucrezia if she knew this? She answers: "No. I didn't know."
The duke's aide recognizes the man being hunted and tells the duke that it is the man who bragged that he has sex with Lucrezia. When Lucrezia sees the man clearly, she shouts: "Paolo! But why?" Paolo sees her and yells for her to save him. When Lucrezia remains frozen he starts screaming: "I know you. You let all the men who have had you die." Lucrezia turns to her brother and tells him to make Paolo stop. To shut Paolo up permanently, Caesare throws a spear into the man's chest.
The duke comes in to see Lucrezia. She cries and says: "Yes, I know. I lost you." He tells her that he will leave for Naples without a scandal. Lucrezia shouts: "No. You can't leave me!" The duke says it will take time but he will get over her. He turns to go and again she tells him not to leave. At least not until she has a chance to tell him her sad story. She says she will tell him everything. All her life she has been ordered around by Caesare. He forced her to marry Janse Sforza in order to get a Milanese alliance. Her brother never cared what she wanted personally.
She tells the duke about her life with Sforza. She is in her bath (some nudity) and Sforza comes in to see her in the company of a young lad. The man pays more attention to the young fellow than to his wife. Lucrezia says he was both perverse and mediocre. She never really saw much of him for he rarely visited her. She says she did try to love him, but it was no use. She felt lost and lonely. So she began to have some love affairs. One day, a warmer, more human face came her way and she latched onto him. Sforza never even noticed.
After awhile Sforza became a hindrance for Caesare. They kill the man's courier and find out Sforza was sending a letter to Milano. He asks for the French to attack Caesare. Caesare declares: "It's high treason."
Lucrezia continues her love affair with the man with the warm glance: Perroto. Caesare is coming and she has to tell Perroto to hide. Caesare comes in and gives the captured letter to her to read. Lucrezia agrees with Caesare that they must kill the traitor. Caesare leaves and Perroto comes out of hiding. He tells Lucrezia that Caesare will just marry her off to someone else. In fact, he probably has a prospect already. Perroto says that Lucrezia doesn't really want Sforza killed. He may still be of use to her. So Lucrezia agrees to let Perroto go ahead and warn Sforza what's about to happen to him.
Micheletto comes in to tell Caesare that Sforza has escaped from them. The hunt is now on for the escapee. Caesare now goes to speak with his sister. He yanks her by the hair out of bed and tells her: "You warned Sforza." Lucrezia says it isn't true, but he slaps her so hard across the face that she goes down to the floor. There he kicks her. He starts hitting her with a heavy, folded up cloth. Lucrezia finally breaks and admits that she told Sforza. She also mentions that by now Sforza has a four hour head start. She then tells her brother that there are other, better ways to get rid of Sforza. Divorce! She says that they will say that Sforza never touched her. Caesare Borgia loves the idea and laughs heartily.
Lucrezia comes out from being questioned about her marriage to Sforza. Caesare asks her for the clerics' verdict and she says: "They believed me." But, she says, it was very painful for her to have to tell her story. She goes over be consoled by Perroto. Micheletto tells Caesare that Lucrezia did not act alone. She had an accomplice, namely Perroto. Caesare puts poison in a cup to give to Perroto. Later Caesare's men throw the man's body into the river.
Caesare now sends Lucrezia to see Julie Farnese. There she is taught more social skills. One night there is a fight outside the mansion. The women look out the window and Lucrezia sees a man known as Paolo defeating a man much bigger than he is.
Caesare has some enemies. Their plan is to kidnap Lucrezia in order to force Sforza to tell the truth and admit that she lied to the committee of clerics. To help them kidnap Lucrezia, they have a dwarf on the inside who supplies them with information for money. He tells them that there are only 15 armed guards around the place. The dwarf adds he wants to be a part of the abduction team. He says he wants the old hag Julie Farnese stabbed to death.
The women are in the bathing room. (Some nudity.) The abductors arrive at the mansion and run over to it. They have to kill the guards in order to get into the mansion. The dwarf tells them the best ways to go. Two guards and killed and then the other thirteen are also killed. The abductors then run into Paolo and some other stable boys and attack them. Some of the young men are killed, but Paolo performs very well against them. The attackers get into the mansion and the dwarf directs them to the bathing room where Lucrezia is along with some other women. (Some nudity.) The men rush into the room. They grab Lucrezia who tries to fight them off. Other palace men arrive to fight the attackers, but there are too many kidnappers. In all the confusion, Paolo comes to the rescue. With the help of a buddy, he goes into the bathing room and gets Lucrezia free from her captors. They go out a window, get on a horse and ride away. The leader of the abductors jumps on a horse and chases after them. He catches up with them and jumps from his horse onto the couple, bringing everyone down to the ground. Paolo fights the leader of the thieves and kills the man.
After the fighting Lucrezia realizes that it's Paolo who saved her. He has a bad cut on his left arm. She had sex with Paolo, but, she says: "I soon regretted it. I was ashamed." So to keep him away from her, she had Caesare promote him to a higher rank in the army.
On that night when the duke and she first met, she was just walking around being very lonely. Then, of course, she meets the duke and, she says: "I was reborn." And now she has told him her entire story. The duke says he is obsessed by the images in his head of her being with other men.
The duke and Lucrezia walk in the forest. Caesare is away in France and Lucrezia feels much lighter in spirit now. The King of France has made Caesare a duke. The aide to the Duke of Aragon tells Lucrezia that the Naples alliance is no longer needed by Caesare. That means trouble for Lucrezia and the Duke of Aragon.
The Duke of Aragon comes in to see his wife and she tells him that Caesare is coming back. The duke says that he can't do much of anything to them. Lucrezia is not so sure.
Caesare comes back and soon plots with Micheletto to kill the Duke of Aragon. They have a pair of beautiful gloves. One of the gloves has a poison claw inside the glove. They will give the gloves to the duke and soon the man will be dead. Caesare gives the gloves to Micheletto and tells him: "He's got to die!"
Micheletto gives the gloves to the duke in the presence of Lucrezia. The duke looks impressed by the beautiful gloves, but then throws them on a nearby table. The duke leaves the room. One of Lucrezia's dogs grabs a glove off the table and starts playing with it. After awhile, the dog suddenly dies, which alarms Lucrezia a great deal. Micheletto tells her not to tell the lord of Aragon or it will mean a nasty confrontation between the lord and Caesare. Lucrezia agrees.
The lord of Aragon's aide tells Lucrezia that the Duke of Briscelli must leave Rome at once. Lucrezia talks with the duke. They kiss and then he tells her that they will be together in a month. He leaves with a small escort. Micheletto and a party of assassins rush to get ahead of the group leaving Rome, so they can set up an ambush for the Duke of Briscelli. Coming up on the ambush site the duke sees the group of assassins. His aide tells the duke that Lucrezia must have betrayed them. Now the fight is on. The duke has to fight off many attackers. He kills a number of bad guys, but then an assassin comes from behind the sword fighting duke and stabs him. The duke falls all the way down the stairs to the street below.
Caesare is at a party that is also a bit of an orgy. (Some nudity.) The orgy is in honor of Lucrezia's future husband, the Duke of Este. Micheletto comes in and shakes his head to Caesare. He has to admit that he failed his boss. The Duke of Briscelli is still alive.
Lucrezia nurses her duke. A doctor is brought in to check his wounds. Later the doctor tells Caesare that the duke will recover. In private Micheletto asks permission of Caesare to strangle the duke when he can be alone with him. Permission granted, but Caesare warns Micheletto: "This time he dies or you die." Caesare says he will keep Lucrezia busy.
The Duke of Briscelli awakens. Lucrezia is there and he tells her to get away from him for she has betrayed him. Lucrezia feels very bad and figures that this is all the work of her brother. She goes to see Caesare. On her way she picks up a dagger and hides it in her clothing. Micheletto sees her coming and he tells Caesare that now he will go after the Duke of Briscelli. Caesare says he will keep Lucrezia with him.
Lucrezia comes to her brother and tells him: "You're guided by a monstrous pride, a desire to dominate." She tries to stab him, but he grabs her hand and forces her to the floor. He then tells her: "You were foolish to walk away from him (the duke)." Lucrezia realizes what that means and laments: "No, no. You didn't do this." She runs to see her duke. As she approaches the room she sees Micheletto coming out of the room. Caesare tells her: "I had to sacrifice him. I hesitated a long time." Lucrezia tells him: "You won. Rejoice!" For nothing matters now what happens to her. She tells her brother to go away for he disgusts her. Caesare tells her: "Lucrezia, Il love you too." Lucrezia answers: "You are dead to me. Dead, like him."
They put the body in the church for the viewing. Lucrezia dressed all in black follows behind the men carrying the duke's dead body. So now the duke is laying in state. Caesare watches what's going on from a second story position.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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