A sumptuously mounted and photographed celebration of artful wickedness, betrayal and sexual intrigue among depraved 18th-century French aristocrats, Dangerous Liaisons
(based on Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses
) is seductively decadent fun. The villainous heroes are the Marquise De Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte De Valmont (John Malkovich), who have cultivated their mutual cynicism into a highly developed and exquisitely mannered form of (in-)human expression. Former lovers, they now fancy themselves rather like demigods whose mutual desires have evolved beyond the crudeness of sex or emotion. They ritualistically act out their twisted affections by engaging in elaborate conspiracies to destroy the lives of their less calculating acquaintances, daring each other to ever-more-dastardly acts of manipulation and betrayal. Why? Just because they can; it's their perverted way of getting their kicks in a dead-end, pre-Revolutionary culture. Among their voluptuous and virtuous prey are fair-haired angels played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman, who have never looked more ripe for ravishing. When the Vicomte finds himself beset by bewilderingly genuine emotions for one of his victims, the Marquise considers it the ultimate betrayal and plots her heartless revenge. Dangerous Liaisons
is a high-mannered revel for the actors, who also include Swoosie Kurtz, Mildred Natwick, and Keanu Reeves. --Jim Emerson
It is pre-Revolution France. The Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmot (John Malkovich) are decadent members of the Paris aristocracy. The Marquise challenges the Vicomte to conquer young Cecile (Uma Thurman), the wife-to-be of an old friend. However, the perverse Vicomte prefers to work upon the seduction of Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), a married and moral young aquaintance. The sexual and social repercussions of the seduction has disastrous effects. The film won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.