Updated adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' classic 18th Century tale of seduction, betrayal and revenge set in the modern 1960s world of Parisian high society. The beautiful Madame de ... See full summary »
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With World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Russian Civil War as backdrop, it's an old-fashioned, blood-and-guts narrative, filled with earthly humor and a wealth of colorful ... See full summary »
F. Murray Abraham
Set in Baroque France, a scheming widow and her lover make a bet regarding the corruption of a recently married woman. The lover, Valmont, bets that he can seduce her, even though she is an... See full summary »
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Updated adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' classic 18th Century tale of seduction, betrayal and revenge set in the modern 1960s world of Parisian high society. The beautiful Madame de Merteuil seeks vengeance against her ex-lover Gercourt when he becomes engaged to her young goddaughter, Cécile. Merteuil turns to her ex-lover/partner-in-crime, Valmont, famous for his reputation as a Don Juan, to seduce Cécile and emotionally destroy her. While on his mission, Valmont gets sidetracked when he goes to visit his aunt and falls for Madame Tourvel, a virtuous, married woman who knows of his womanizing ways, but that only makes the challenge more exciting to Valmont. Together, Madame de Merteuil and Valmont make a dangerous team and they will stop at nothing when it comes to matters of the heart. Written by
First and foremost, this movie is beautifully filmed. The art director obviously had a ball with the sets, clothing, and other period details. He or She put a lot more care and detail into every scene than I would have expected, and it's a delight to watch. I find myself peeking into every nook and corner-. And the cars! Even if this movie was terrible in every way, it would be worth watching (or skimming) just to see the 1960's Rolls Royce, Maserati, Bentley and other gorgeous vintage European cars. Divine music: Motown, blues and a bit of rock and roll. This movie intentionally moves at a slow, even pace, and the richness of the period details help keep the mind and eye occupied. I'm not exaggerating by much when I say that this movie could be viewed with the sound off. It's like looking at a high-end fashion catalog from the early and mid-1960's - if you like that sort of thing (which I do).
Secondly, I think it's important to keep in mind that that this book was not originally written as either a morality tale or critique of ancien regime aristocrats. The fact that it's interpreted that way speaks only of our contemporary sensibilities. Valmont's death is pointless, and Merteuil loses nothing except her position within the demi-monde. Like Versailles the characters in this movie exist in an amoral plane. Common notions of morality simply do not apply to these aristocrats. The very rich (like the very poor), have nothing to lose.
Third, this is a very funny movie if viewed with a certain amount of irony. I'm glad this version doesn't psychoanalyze the characters - Everyone is exactly what they seem to be. If the characters were complex and 3 dimensional, watching the slow sadistic manipulation, seduction and disposal of other lifelike characters would be unendurably painful. As it is, it's comical. I can only smile and laugh at their breathtaking cruelty. One of my favorite scene is when Valmont's aunt Rosamonde tells him that Tourvel has left because he is making her suffer so. Biting his thumb and with a look of sheer demonic glee he asks "Is she really suffering?" Very very funny. But only because he is, existentially, a predator and nothing else. The director studiously avoids delving beneath the surface of these characters. True to the source material, (and life at Versailles) appearance is the only reality.
This movie is beautiful to look at, and it's a lot of fun to watch the audacity with which these cold, emotionally bleached aristocrats ruin others and themselves for no good reason (other than sheer boredom).
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