In 18th century France, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont play a dangerous game of seduction. Valmont is someone who measures success by the number of his conquests and Merteuil challenges him to seduce the soon to be married Cecile de Volanges and provide proof in writing of his success. His reward for doing so will be to spend the night with Merteuil. He has little difficulty seducing Cecile but what he really wants is to seduce Madame de Tourvel. When Merteuil learns that he has actually fallen in love with her, she refuses to let him claim his reward for seducing Cecile. Death soon follows. Written by
In Madame de Rosemonde's garden, Valmont sits behind Madame de Tourvel and asks "Why are you so angry with me?" The camera then cuts to a close-up of Tourvel's face, and Valmont is sitting much closer behind her. See more »
Marquise de Merteuil:
When I came out into society, I was fifteen. I already knew that the role I was condemned to, namely to keep quiet and do what I was told, gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and observe. Not to what people told me, which naturally was of no interest, but to whatever it was they were trying to hide. I practiced detachment. I learned how to look cheerful while, under the table, I stuck a fork into the back of my hand. I became a virtuoso of deceit. It wasn't pleasure I was after, it was ...
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Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.
You wouldn't necessarily think that an adaptation of an albeit famous 17th century French novel would make a relevant and fascinating piece of cinema... but it does.
The first thing that strikes you is how well the film is lit and shot. The period locations and costumes are visually sumptuous and perfect. Better yet, the acting entirely matches the skill of the direction that takes its method from the theatre - emotions are conveyed by expression and not dialogue. Glenn Close gives her best performance on celluloid as the scheming Madame de Merteuil, amorally hellbent on bending everyone to her will, no matter the method or the cost, and John Malkovitch is her perfect foil as the cynical hedonistic but world-weary Valmont. Michelle Pfeiffer engages our empathy as the tortured and manipulated target of Malkovitch's desire and Close's plotting.
The film is basically a morality tale, but one that fascinates in its exposure of ego, vanity, intrigue and the war between the genders, subjects that are timeless in their relevance, despite the period setting. The storyline, which sticks faithfully to the original novel, remains compelling throughout as we watch deceits within deceits take their tragic course. Whole-heartedly recommended - take your time over it, and enjoy.
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