This was made at the same time as the peerless and infinitely superior DANGEROUS LIAISONS but its release was delayed on account of the mauling it would have had at the massed artillery of Hampton's et al's masterpiece. Milos Forman who had made the stunning AMADEUS, tries some of his same devices (including scoring by Sir Neville Marriner), a similar proscenium framing, richly-detailed costume and luxurious set-design but there are two fatal flaws in the project as it is presented to us here. The first is the casting: whatever Colin Firth's virtues may be, malice and a savagely wrecked heart are not among them; however plausible Annette Bening may have been to financiers at the time, she is also insufficiently dark, being merely naughty, while the other actors seem to belong to a casting rationale for an altogether lower budget-tier altogether, with the exception of the beautifully-voiced Mme de Tourvel, who is the most memorable performer in what is a mis-firing piece. And that is the problem: the production was so intimidated by its enemy, that it was a chaotic shambles by the time it started shooting. Instead of copying Hampton's take (which it would have been both pointless and illegal to have tried), it strives so hard to re-imagine LaClos' original work as a modern Hollywood take on romantic disappointment (almost heresy to Hollywood in anycase) that it mangles all of the orginal work's excoriating genius. The result is slow, clumsy (Valmont disappears for nearly half an hour and almost the entirety of the Second Act) and only hits its stride at 72 mins in, by which time it is much too late. DANGEROUS LIAISONS, by contrast, has started to conquer, within ten seconds of the opening titles. Even VALMONT's scoring is laughably bad. (Perhaps the budget was cut to meet expectations.) This is a half-hearted knees-up a long way behind the lines of authentic engagement with its subject and its dominating rival.