Cinema: Virtue Besieged

Mandragola, set in Italy at the close of the quattrocento, uses the stones of Florence to soften up a girl's resistance. As an impregnably virtuous Renaissance lady enduring a crash course in fertility, Rosanna Schiaffino is stretched out in bed with large, warm rocks on her stomach, then is marinated in giant tubfuls of broth, and finally is sealed, screeching, into a body-length hot-water bag to test another old wives' tale. More than 400 years after it was penned by the cynical Renaissance moralist, Niccolo Machiavelli, this ribald comedy classic still looks exuberantly out of bounds.

If the tantalizing Madonna Lucrezia seems...

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