Two of your Frock Flickers just went to carnival in Venice — Trystan and I had a blast! So I’ve got Venice on the brain. I thought it would nice to take a look at some of the top frock flicks set in the Serenissima, particularly those that evoke a sense of the city. Of course, a number of costume films have been set there, including the various versions of Othello, Brideshead Revisited (1981 and 2008), and Effie Gray. But these five films rise to the top!
There have been multiple films about Casanova, and probably most of them are “set” in Venice. My favorite is probably the David Tennant version, but none of it was filmed in the city. For a better flavor of Venice, watch this Heath Ledger film, which WAS actually filmed on location in Venice.
Death in Venice (1971)
Everyone raves about Piero Tosi’s costume designs in this Edwardian-set film that was indeed filmed in Venice. I’ve heard so many good things that I was even fired up to watch this, until I read that it’s basically about a pedophile having the hots for a younger man (okay, and seeing reviews that constantly mention the word “slow” — if it was a fast-paced, action-packed movie, MAYBE?). Feel free to stone me!
The Merchant of Venice (2004)
Here’s another one I haven’t seen, and you may stone me when I tell you that I don’t get terribly excited about Shakespeare (I had a great high school English teacher who made King Lear come alive, and sure Much Ado About Nothing is great, but otherwise I generally feel like I have to work too hard to appreciate any nuances; I KNOW, I’M A HEATHEN! I do nerd out about many other historical writings/theater!). That being said, this version of The Merchant of Venice was indeed filmed in Venice, and critics love to wet themselves about how good it is, so I feel morally obliged to include it!
Dangerous Beauty (1998)
Okay, so the movie is cheesy AF while also being a total guilty pleasure, and the costumes are crazytown but also based in actual history. When I watch the film, I always feel like they’re on a set, not the real deal, but this was actually filmed in Venice … and despite the staginess of the sets, I DO feel like I get a sense of Venice as a Renaissance city and the centrality of courtesans to that era. So, it’s a good one for enjoying Venice’s golden age!
The Wings of the Dove (1997)
This 1910s-set, Henry James adaptation is absolutely my top choice. Yes, the first half of the movie is set in England, but when the main characters go to Venice, there is ALL THE VENICE PORN. Multiple shots of key locations, like the Palazzo San Marco! Historical churches! Picnics by the canal! Wandering the tiny streets! And best of all, they’re there for carnival, so there’s historical fancy dress PLUS hot costumed dark-street shagging.
What’s your favorite historical costume film set in Venice?