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I'm actually Korean but write this opinion without my nationality. I watched this impressive movie and even though my English isn't good enough trying to comment about this because this movie rated so low. Do not believe the rate. I don't know why this movie rated so low. Actor and actresses plays really well and story also really good. Watch this movie first and then feel this sad movie, Ziyi Zhang's act was so amazing. And she is so beautiful in the movie. Dong-gun Jang's act also really good except that he plays as playboy(花花公子) :( It's Chinese movie but directed by Korean. The collaboration seems really good. I hope this kind of movie comes out more and more.
Based on the 18th century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by
Perre Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons got a memorable screen
adaptation through Stephen Frear's film with the likes of Glenn Close,
John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman playing pivotal roles
in a tale of power, corruption and the use of sex as a manipulative
weapon amongst the rich and idle. While the original tale is set in
France before the French Revolution, this Chinese version sets it in
the tumultuous period in 1930s Shanghai, retaining key plot
developments and characters from the novel
Screened at the Cannes Film Festival Director's Fortnight sidebar, this Chinese production, directed by Korean Hur Jin Ho, who did April Snow, doesn't offer anything new to those who are familiar with the original tale, or various adaptations already done for the screen and stage. To the uninitiated, it deals with the games the rich engage in play in, using each other's resources to tangle and play with the feelings and emotions of others, just because they can, or in essence, to hit below the belt of one's enemies, striking straight into the ego and pride. And relationships built are nothing but temporal and fleeting, for the purpose of advancement, with self interests put above anything else.
I mean, who puts mirrors on ceilings, if not to reflect on one's narcissism? Which is just about what Cecilia Cheung's character of Miss Mo, central to the plot and chief manipulator, does for her mansion of opulence. The primary villain in the film, the character is the classic smiling assassin, who seem to befriend you with honesty and sincerity, only to be wielding a butcher's knife behind your back, ready to strike. A trophy wife who had made it good when her husband passed on, she's what would be top of the list if Forbes was doing the richest, most powerful and influential list of women in Shanghai, to whom everyone kowtows to. And her objective here is simple, to get the playboy Xie Yifan (Jang Dong Gun) bed the virginal Beibei (Candy Wang), in order to slap the face of a rich rival who is determined to marry a virgin.
But for Yifan, Beibei is not a challenge, because his sights is firmly set on the recently widowed Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi), his second cousin who is now staying in his mansion. For all his wit, charm and style that made countless of women fall under his spell, he cannot seem to get through to Fenyu who has been resisting all his advances, and I suppose nothing appeals more to Yifan than a real challenge. At one point he admits that he never would dare cross Miss Mo, and given the knowledge of Beibei's mother badmouthing him to Fenyu, he accepts Miss Mo's challenge and bet, and the manipulative games are all set to begin, for unexpected consequences to all parties who allow true emotions be involved, and putting everyone in a fix whether to trust their hearts, or heads and the respective reputations that precede them.
For its rich production values in recreating costumes and sets for 30s Shanghai, obviously the filmmakers decided not to pay attention to other details, such as the accuracy of the English subtitles, which is horrible for a production of this scale and magnitude, with ambition to appeal to the Western world. It was bad to the point that you'll be paying attention to the next line of subtitle to spot yet another typo, which is distracting to say the least, taking attention away from what is happening on screen. The significance of change, with the story unfolding just before the French Revolution, somehow lost its touch in this Chinese adaptation, which had anti-Japanese sentiments in that era, but obviously played down given the socio-political situation of today. So we don't get any macro-influences, with this version firmly involving micro-relations between all the characters.
While the characters themselves are one-dimensional for epitomizing certain values associated with them, the delivery could have been ramped up by the star studded cast made up of actors from China, Hong Kong, and South Korea, who seem to have been miscast in the film. Cecilia Cheung still needs a better role for her comeback to the entertainment scene, since Speed Angels was really straight to video material, and Legendary Amazons was a total joke under the guise of a period action film. Here, her Miss Mo cannot seem to wipe away her hypocritical smile, and nary does she threaten convincingly as the master of manipulation at the top of her game, unable to shake the rust from her absence.
Zhang Ziyi too had roles which were more challenging than the one she played here, and is often reduced to icy cold stares, or is trying too hard to act demure, or clingy, as the housewife who has that streak of rebellion in her, which was never crystallized in full. Perhaps it would have been more interesting if Cheung and Zhang swapped roles. Jang Dong Gun seemed to have been cast not only for his good looks, but to allow the South Korean market to be open for this film to make inroads in. But he's just too clean cut for the role, unlike say, Lee Byung-Hun, who has this natural streak of playfulness, and roguish demeanour to have made it a lot more convincing.
Still, for those unfamiliar with the Dangerous Liaisons story, this film could be your introduction to it, except that since it's a Chinese production, do expect sexually tense situations to be watered down for mass PG consumption. It does it job to introduce the tale, but is hardly one of the best adaptations around.
Some characters are just so vile, so devious, so dumb or so benevolent
that the notion of them being real people is simply unthinkable. But
you want these people in a movie, often desperately, because the very
combination of their characteristics is just the right recipe for a
drama fraught with lost love, lies, betrayals and startling
revelations. Like scandal-laden Taiwanese soap operas, or magic tricks,
there's nothing good that comes out of showing you the whole thing
before you watch them unfold. The less said about Dangerous Liaisons,
the better. I hope you experience its ideas fresh and I hope the plot
surprises work for you as much as they did for me.
Cecilia Chung plays Mo Jieyu, a jealous and cunning ex-lover locked in horns with former partner and millionaire playboy Xie Yifan (Jang Don- gun). They make a bet that the one-track minded Yifan couldn't resist: If he beds new-in-town widow Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi), Jieyu will give herself to Yifan again, but if he fails to achieve the goal, he must give her a piece of land. Talking about Dangerous Liaisons then leads to a more complex problem because this premise that it's being sold on barely scratches the surface of what the whole movie has to offer. Yes, the movie concerns these three characters, but in many ways, they are just catalysts, with most of the major events unravelling around their actions.
Telling you how it all exactly plays out and why would definitely sell you on this movie, but it's hard to do so without spoiling the show, so I'll stick to the other noteworthy bit: the setting. Director Hur Jin- ho's 1930s Shanghai is at once glittering and ramshackle, with opulent, brightly lit buildings and polished cars flanking timeworn shophouses and beat up trishaws. The rich hold firm their social mores while the poor prove less restrained, yet they co-exist in undisturbed harmony. It's one of the most carefully curated, detailed and beautiful looks at a lost world, delivering a reality that feels consistently believable even though it's only vaguely familiar.
If that sounds like the setting plays a big part in the movie, that's because it does. So much of the plot is predicated on the traditional customs of the period that you suspect the movie would have been less smart and less tense had it been staged at another city in another era. Keeping a couple apart by telling the audience that a relationship isn't valid if the people involved don't share similar social statuses or breaking a marriage because the virgin that a rich and famous man is going to marry suddenly becomes a non-virgin isn't new, to be sure, but it's interesting to see a movie hit on these concepts to propel its story into richer complexity.
Into this complexity is where you find the characters switching roles. This is the sort of movie that spends enough time in the headspace of its character for you to claim that you can fully interpret what each character is thinking by the time Dangerous Liaisons nears the end. And you could have easily imagined the movie simmering down to a more predictable conclusion of having each of its characters get his or her reward or comeuppance. Which the characters do. But there's a greater note to that end, and I find myself forced to question whether the good person is actually the bad person, and whether the bad person is actually the good person. Or whether there's always a good side to a bad person.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having there already been several adaptations to the French novel, this movie had high standards to live up to. Having only seen one of them myself, Cruel Intentions (1999), I still felt this Chinese version deserved more credit than it had been given. This adaptation gave the story sophistication and depth, without playing too much on the idea of sex appeal and sexual scenes within the movie. Some western audiences may find this a little PG, and may not take a liking to the approach, but with experience and a deeper understanding of Oriental culture, it can be explained. The director, South Korea's Jin-ho Hur was really taking a risk with trying to maintain the traditional Mandarin-romance story, but also allowing it to appeal to a worldwide audience. Of course there are a few disappointments, but for me were mainly script based. It frustrated me to realise that the script writers altering the script somewhat to appeal to an English speaking audience. With the cast often saying the odd word or sentence in English, something I had yet to witness in Eastern Asian cinema. I didn't quite understand it at first, completely deeming it unnecessary. There have been many successful Mandarin speaking films that had never attempted this and have won awards in countries worldwide regardless. It didn't, however ruin the experience for me too much, with it still 95% Mandarin Chinese, it was just something that saddened me. It also seemed that while the direction really attempted to make this more appealing to a worldwide audience, it still managed to latch on to the typical Chinese romance story; with a real lack of sexual scenes and a more sophisticated, graceful feel throughout. The cinematography was beautiful, capturing a real authentic feel to 1930's Shanghai. The sets, costumes and general atmosphere captured to perfection. If you're a Zhang Ziyi fan, you will not be disappointed; this is a truly brilliant film.
An adaptation of the two hundred year old French novel of the same
name, director Jin-ho Hur's Dangerous Liaisons remains fairly faithful
to the book, with the noticeable exception of landing the story in
In a world where power is as metaphysical as it is monetary, the sensual and conniving Miss Mo (Cecilia Cheung) enlists the allure of notorious playboy Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun) to help her toy with the relationships of unsuspecting acquaintances. When the cruel pair makes a bet that Yifan has no hope of seducing the prim and proper Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi)- a wager neither party has even considered losing- matters begin to spiral out of control as young lovers Beibei and Dai are thrown into the mix and the human element rears its ugly head.
The film looks fantastic. The overall camera-work is inspired and dynamic, while the interior cinematography is tinged with a golden hue that gives each scene a unique and stunning richness. Exterior shots are almost Snyder-esque, making modest use of computer-generated imagery to recreate post-WW1 Shanghai in all its splendour.
But aesthetic appeal aside, the strength of this film rests on its characters. Here the audience is presented with a couple of individuals who have achieved great success in their own lives by blocking out their natural human states and manipulating 'weaker-minded' counterparts for their own amusement. As a result, the film accommodates a lot of intrigue when these raw emotions inevitably boil over and consume them.
Unfortunately, Hur's ambition in attempting to weave a multitude of arcs together during the third act gets the better of him, as a need to neatly wrap up the holistic plot overwhelms the emotional investment placed in each solitary character. As the closing credits roll, it becomes apparent that Dangerous Liaisons lacked the urgency and genuine thrill demanded, or at least permitted, by the subject matter.
It is bittersweet, then, to assert that the film stumbles at the final hurdle when everything leading up to that point is actually quite fascinating. No character is omitted from the story for any extended time, motifs in the form of letters, mirrors and closed doors intelligently hint at the exclusive, secluded world these people live in and the epilogue is rare in that it is both cathartic and memorable in the way that many others are not.
At its core, Dangerous Liaisons is an atypical and worthwhile tragic love story; Shakespearean in enterprise despite lacking in execution.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Why so many people in so many countries love doing their interpretation
of the French novel "Dangerous Liaisons" (I'm giving the English
translation, I know) is beyond me. It's not THAT great a story. There
have been two American versions (which includes "Valmont") plus "Cruel
Intentions," plus the Korean version entitled "Untold Scandal." I'm
sure there are even more versions out there that I don't even know
In any event, because I'm a Zhang Ziyi fan and the reviews were relatively decent, I thought I'd give it a shot. This film is OK if you like Asian cinema, but there is no reason to go out of your way to see this film. Zhang is extremely restrained in this role, and unless they intentionally wanted her to look less attractive than she has in the past, her beauty is starting to slip. I had never seen the sumptuous Cecelia Cheung before, and she trumps Zhang in the looks department this time around.
With the exception of a very moving sequence by Zhang when she realizes she's been duped, I thought the film was soulless, and broke little new ground compared to the other versions I've seen. If you want to see a great version of this story, then the Korean version called "Untold Scandal" is for you. My review for that one is under that movie on IMDb.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A stellar cast of Hong Kong's famous celebrities but the acting's only
The story brings to mind Roger Kumble's 1999 Cruel Intentions. Very similar though not mirroring the exact relationships between the characters. There is Sebastian, Kathryn, Cecile, Annette, the bet, and the wager of either a material possession or Kathryn. Even Ronald makes an appearance. Of course, I'm using the character names from Cruel Intentions to illustrate the characters in Dangerous Liaisons.
As much as it disappoints me, it is also hilarious that the level of plagiarism is almost right down to the major events of the Hollywood movie. At one point, Sebastian is about to get his prize but suddenly stops short, seemingly struck by a guilty conscience, followed by Annette's moving out of the mansion, but yet subsequently giving into the advances of Sebastian, etc etc.
Not a must-watch, but if you enjoyed Cruel Intentions or at least managed to sit through it without feeling cheated of your money, then watch this for the comedic flavour of its homage paid to Roger Kumble.
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