Vénus (1929) Poster

(1929)

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2/10
The princess should have drowned.
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre13 February 2005
'Venus' was made in France, but this movie fits squarely into the Italian film genre which has a name that translates into English as 'white telephone'. A white-telephone movie is a film about superficial rich people who have plenty of leisure time, doing unimportant things in extremely swank surroundings.

Princess Beatrice is the president of the Doriani Steamship Line. While cruising off the coast of Cyprus, she has a sudden yen to go water-skiing in a formal gown and string of pearls. (As I said, this is a white-telephone movie.) When she discovers that she's improperly dressed for water-skiing, she discards her gown but carries on in her pearls and her scanties. A sleazy passenger on the ship (Maurice Schutz) makes a lewd remark about this display in the presence of the ship's commanding officer, Captain Franqueville (Charles Frank), who gallantly slaps the bounder. Said bounder promptly falls overboard. The captain duly lowers a lifeboat, but the cad drowns anyway.

When the Princess learns that the captain has struck a passenger, indirectly causing the passenger's death, she promptly sacks Franqueville ... not knowing that his action was in defence of her honour. (Should that make a difference?) Later, in Cyprus, the Princess meets a handsome man and they're mutually attracted. But they don't know each other's names. Only when he expresses contempt for the name of Princess Beatrice Doriani for costing him his job does she realise that this is Captain Franqueville. Being deeply attracted to him, she decides to reveal her identity ... but there's always a headwaiter, or some other interruption, to prevent this.

'Venus' is painfully unfunny. A long series of deeply contrived interruptions prevent the princess from tipping her hand. It's very annoying at any time to watch characters behaving so frivolously and irresponsibly with so much wealth, but especially so in a movie made in 1929, just a few months before the stock-market crash. The production budget might have been adequate for a story about middle-class characters, but is much too low for this story about conspicuous consumption and wealthy royalty. Some of the exterior sequences are well-photographed, especially the water-skiing sequence which requires a camera to keep moving at sea level without getting water on the lens. I never found Constance Talmadge especially beautiful, but her beauty here has faded considerably from her peak years. A more plausible script might have helped. I'll rate this movie 2 points out of 10.
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