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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.
"Dangerous Liaisons" is this incredible movie that is so under rated.
It's the battle of the sexes and this book was written over 200 years
ago! I love to know that there was this same problem that we still have
to this day. That's why enjoyed "Dangerous Liaisons" so much because it
proves that we have so many differences from the opposite sexes. Men
are usually expected to have sex and with a few clever words destroy
women's reputations in minutes, while women have to be careful of
sleeping with whom, because it's considered shameful.
Glenn Close plays Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil, a proper lady with a secretive double life of sex and wishing to destroy a girl's reputation for revenge on her ex for dumping her for this young lady. She also makes a bet with her closest friend, Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont played by John Malkovich, that he could not bed a lady of such high stature and morals, in return if he succeeds, he will finally have the conquest he's been dreaming of, bedding Marquise Isabelle. I don't care what people say, this was Glenn's best performance and she was so brilliant. Her speech of "Dominate your sex and avenge my own" was perfect and as a woman I rooted for her in the story. She is a tragic figure that was over looked by many as just another slut. Glenn had my sympathy and I agreed with a lot of her dialog.
John as Valmont was absolutely perfect, he's not that sexy looking but has such charm and charisma on the screen you believe him as a lady's man. "It's beyond my control", he repeats this several times throughout the film and it becomes more darker each and every time he says it to Michelle's character. He does the Marquise a favor of bedding young Cecile to help the Marquise's plan of revenge and does such a good job. It was almost too easy for him, but he has a more difficult task of bedding Madame Marie de Tourvel who is married and has very high morals and standards of God and love. He falls in love with her in the process of getting to know her and is so believable, you can see how it breaks his heart to break her's. But he feels he must stand by his reputation and your own heart goes out to him despite his cruel manors as a "man".
Michelle Pfeiffer as Marie de Tourvel is so beautiful and elegant and is the only one who knows of Valmont's true side. But she cannot help but fall for his charm and love for her, when she talks to his aunt, this is one of the most true speeches ever in cinema that all women can relate too "I'm sorry to say this but those who are most worthy of love are never made happy by it. Do you still think men love the way we do? No... men enjoy the happiness they feel. We can only enjoy the happiness we give. They are not capable of devoting themselves exclusively to one person. So to hope to be made happy by love is a certain cause of grief." That is so incredibly and painfully true that Marie knows better but can't help but give herself to Valmont.
Swoosie Kurtz, Uma Thurman, and Mildred Natwick are all so exceptional and amazing as well in the film. They truly bring the story to life and keep it going with their dialog and actions. Keanu? Shudder, his acting is like... how do I put this delicately? I think it's... wood. :) Otherwise, trust me this is one of the best movies of all time. This deserves higher than a 7.6 and should be in the top 250. But it's beyond my control. :D
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Age of Enlightment gave to the world some pretty controversial
minds. At one end of the spectrum there was the Marquis de Sade who, no
secret to anyone, created the concept that is now known as sadism. At
the other end there is Choderlos de Laclos, who is widely known for
creating this story which in essence is very close to Sade's dark heart
even when it never reaches the extremes of his florid depictions of
ritualistic, sexual perversion.
DANGEROUS LIAISONS, based on the novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses", is this tale, Laclos' most known, adapted many times for television and screen, but never like this with such attention to detail to make it as French as possible, and bringing a classical sensibility to the front. Stephen Frears, in his American film debut, creates a lush visage of restrained yet swooning passions, icy stares, and hushed, measured speeches against the backdrop of the Ile-de-France and should have been the film of the year had it not been for the usual sentimentalism prevalent during the 1980's which gave the major awards to RAINMAN, a film centered around autism that, while delicate as a subject matter was hardly dramatic and today is barely memorable.
On the other hand, this story is. The dark comedy that pins two bored aristocrats against each other as they play God with other people's lives without realizing the devastating consequences that will result from this has been the stuff of legend and allure. Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Michelle Pfeiffer all are beyond awards in their exacting and multidimensional portrayals of three very different people caught in a web of deceit. However the star of this adaptation has to be Christopher Hampton who immortalizes Laclos' vision in a subtle, yet powerful story filled with subtext and restrained cruelty. He's the one who suggests pages about his characters, most tellingly of the Marquis de Merteuil in three key scenes: in the first, opening sequence (which she also shares with the Vicomte de Valmont), she admires her reflection in a mirror with a smug expression akin to the Mona Lisa. She is in control and about to go through with her activities. She is dressed into an orgy of corsets and fabric, looking directly into the camera -- the Vicomte does the same as he is dressed -- which sets their characters' tones. They are mirror images of one another, each in their gender. Both are apparently, in full control.
The second telling revelation of the Marquise is when she arrives to the Volanges' to give advice to Cecile about virtue. You can see how she has her Mona Lisa smile on, which as soon as she gets off her carriage turns to a rictus of anguish. Cut to her later saying about shame: "You find the shame is like the pain. You only feel it once." As her head rests against a window you may see her eyes briefly moisten. Her expression is, however, blank, but very deep and expressive. It's the first time she cracks open the door to her inner face, but just a little and only for a second, but what a second! The last time Hampton describes Merteuil is in a scene which mirrors the first scene: watch how again, she looks at herself in her mirror. Her traps have been discovered and she faces her own self and uncertain future, having destroyed everyone around her and being left alone. It's the calm right before the taking of the Bastille, hence why the timing of the story has to be in the Eighteenth Century, right before the French Revolution. And in being so revealing while using expressions, Hampton creates the internal dialog that was the driving force behind the epistolary nature of the novel. His rendition of the Madame de Tourvel and Valmont are no less complex. Michelle Pfieffer, with minimal dialog and her wide, doe eyes, is given a rewarding role that explodes during her face-off with Malkovich when her character is betrayed. Their physicality skirts with sadism and sets the stage for Valmont's own internal pain as he faces his own mortality, since he has been led to destroy the one he loves, and for a promise and nothing else.
It's been no mystery that films that lose to other, "of the moment" films become timeless and the stuff that makes movie magic. DANGEROUS LIAISONS, nearly twenty years later, still bites, especially when from a light comedy it becomes this horrific monster staring at us from the abyss, more so because of the exquisite cruelty that we cause to others in the name of reputation and vanity. And in that, the Marquise is right: vanity and love are incompatible. Just look at Valmont and you will see why.
This movie is so incredibly well done, and all three lead characters are at their peak career performances. It is clever, funny, and tragic all rolled together, and one that you will be thinking about long after the movie is over. Of the three main characters, Michelle Pfeiffer has the least stretching to do as an actor, but her character calls for a demure, soft-spoken individual. John Malkovitch and Glenn Close are both deliciously malicious and carry the film well. Keanu Reeves is better suited for an action film - he appears wooden - but does a decent job, anyway. Lastly, Uma is refreshing and captivating, and plays opposite John Malkovitch without losing her identity. All in all, masterful, and visually and intellectually stimulating to watch. Still to this day it holds its' own in a world where action is the name of the game.
This movie is elegant. The performances are magnificent. John Malkovich is totally believable as the sector that destroys the life of countless naive women. Glenn Close is amazing as one of the greatest "bitches" of the story of cinema. Michelle Pfeiffer and Keanu Reeves gave their best performances ever and Uma Thurman is amazing with a tremendous mix of innocence and sexuality. The script and the direction really made an amazing job giving an environment of sickness and degradation. The makeup and the beautiful costumes only aggregate the force that the story needed to be told. An amazing movie you really wish to enter in that snake's nest. Highly recommended.
I believe this is the best of the four adaptations of the play/novel
Glenn Close plays Mertuil, who, with Malkovich's Valmont, manipulate and seduce others for entertainment. In comes Michelle Pfieffer's beautiful Madame de Tourvel, whose husband is off at a trial (or something to that extent). Valmont realizes what a capture it would be if he were to succeed in seducing her, and making her forget all her vows of fidelity. Uma Thurman also has a smaller part, one of those who was seduced by Valmont.
Uma Thurman is great, Michelle Pfieffer is exquisite, but it's Close and Malkovich who dominate the screen. Close's mercilessly cunning character has most of the great lines. When asked if betrayal is her favourite word, she replies, "No. Cruelty is. It's much more nobler, don't you think". Malkovich plays a Machiavellian character you lies and cheats to get what he wants
The climax is thrilling, and the finale is incredible. Glenn Close's performance was certainly worthy of the Oscar nomination, and maybe the award. It is her best performance.
Stephen Frears directs a top-notch movie adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' novel about several manipulative Rococo-era French aristocrats. Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) is a seductively evil character who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont (John Malkovich) knows how to trick the peasants into thinking that he's a good guy, despite his vampiric intentions. Madame Marie de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny (Keanu Reeves) may be only products of this vile society, but they are practically helpless to do anything about it. Maybe it's a little strange to see Keanu Reeves in a movie like this, but he makes the best of his role. All in all, "Dangerous Liaisons" is a movie that you can't afford to miss. Perfect.
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This is a tale about the ancien régime in 18th century France before the revolution in which the moral decadence of the privileged classes rivaled that of Sodom and Gomorrah and the ancient Romans. The story comes from a novel by Choderlos de Laclos that was made into a stage play by Christopher Hampton. It is a cynical satire on human sexuality as well as a very subtle examination of sexual hypocrisy and desire, a kind of oh so sophisticated laugh at bourgeois morality that would have delighted Voltaire and Moliere and greatly amused Shakespeare. It is a tale of elaborate lechery and revenge that backfires because it seems that anybody, even the most jagged rake can fall in love, and thereby become the victim.
John Malkovich plays the rake, Vicomte de Valmont, whose sole purpose in life is to seduce women, rob them of their virtue and then move on. Glenn Close plays his back-stabbing confidante and one-time lover, the Marquise de Merteuil. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the coy and virtuous Madame de Tourvel, who is to be Valmont's latest conquest. Uma Thurman is cast as a teenaged ingenue who is betrothed to Merteuil's lover while Keanu Reeves plays her naive music teacher and would be lover, Chevalier Danceny. Stephen Frears, who has directed such diverse films as The Grifters (1990) and My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), after a somewhat cryptic start, does an excellent job of bringing the biting cynicism of Laclos and Hampton to the screen.
I know of two other versions of this film, Milos Forman's Valmont (1989), starring Colin Firth and Annette Bening, and Roger Vadim's Dangerous Liaisons (1960). Regrettably , I haven't seen Vadim's film, but Forman's Valmont is excellent. In polite society comparisons are said to be odious. I shall proceed anyway:
John Malkovich vs. Colin Firth. Malkovich is widely recognized as a great actor, but he is clearly miscast in this role, yet he brings a predatory dimension to the part that is in keeping with the overall psychology of the movie. Firth, while not as celebrated for his acting skills as Malkovich, is nonetheless a fine actor, and his charm and playful inventiveness are more in keeping with the character of Valmont, whom women love. Call it even.
Glenn Close vs. Annette Bening. Again Close is considered the more accomplished actor, but Bening is sexier, prettier and considerably more charming. Whether that is a plus as far as the reality of the novel and play are concerned is debatable. For my part I found Bening a lot more fun to watch. Edge to Bening.
Michelle Pfeiffer vs. Meg Tilly. Pfeiffer is a much bigger star and has more experience as an actress. She is beautiful, but Tilly is more passionate. Pfeiffer was nominated for an academy award for best supporting actress for her work, but did not win. Personally I thought Tilly was more believable and was especially effective in projecting first the repressed passion and then the complete abandonment as she gives herself to Valmont. Pfeiffer's portrayal of Tourvel's coy awakening, with just a hint of duplicity, and then her utter dissolution when he leaves her, was star quality. Edge to Pfeiffer.
Uma Thurman vs. Fairuza Balk. I loved them both. Thurman, of course, is a more statuesque beauty with a polished and controlled acting style, but Balk's wide-eyed innocence was a delight. Call it even.
Keanu Reeves vs. Henry Thomas. Thomas was cute, but almost too juvenile to be believed. Reeves seemed just right for the part. Clear edge to Reeves.
Frears vs. Forman. Frears's direction was more cynical, especially in the duel between Valmont and Merteuil in which their mutual and complementary debauchery is in sharp focus. And his resolution was more clearly defined. Forman's strength was in the delight and playfulness of many of the scenes, especially those relating to the seduction of Tourvel. His direction was more comedic and he allowed a greater development of secondary characters, while Frears concentrated more on the two leads. I give a very small edge to Forman, but would not argue with those preferring Frears.
Bottom line: I liked Forman's movie better, but the voters at IMDb.com preferred Frears's Dangerous Liaisons, giving it an average of 7.7 stars out of ten to 6.7 for Valmont.
Some bon mots:
Valmont tells Madame de Tourvel as he dumps her, "My love had great difficulty outlasting your virtue. It's beyond my control."
Valmont demands that the Marquise de Merteuil reply to his proposal of a night together, will it be love of war? He says, "A single word is all that is required." Long pause, and then she gives him three, "All right. (Pause.
Cut to satisfied smile on Valmont's face.) War."
When Valmont returns from making love to Madame de Tourvel he reveals to Merteuil that for the first time he may be in love. He relates his feelings to her, "I love her. I hate her..." The camera turns to Close, who yawns.
Valmont's aunt while consoling Madame de Tourvel, who has confessed that she is in love with Valmont and can't help herself, says, reflecting the wisdom of all who have been there, "In such matters all advice is useless."
Toward the end, Valmont says, "I have no illusions. I lost them on my travels."
I loved this movie. Glenn Close was wonderful as usual, John Malkovich (wonderful as the bad guy we all love to hate in every movie) and Michelle were great, and the ending was great although sad. Glenn Close should have won the Oscar, as well as Michelle. Costumes and sets are beautiful. Watch this one if you are in the mood for betrayal, deception and characters that you want to slap.
This movie had an extraordinary cast (the incomprehensibly bad Keanu Reeves definitely excluded) which created a movie that still looks great 15 years later. I watched "Cruel Intentions" before "Dangerous Liaisons" and I like both of them, but in a different way. "Cruel Intentions" is a very cool movie mostly intended for the younger generations, simplifying the plot but still maintaining the very essence while "Dangerous Liaisons" puts more importance to the actors performance. Malkovich is amazing, so is Glenn Close and I especially liked the 17 year old Uma Thurman! 8/10
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