on 6 December 2000
This is a convincing and compelling version of Choderlos de Laclos' epistolary novel, originally brought to the stage by Christopher Hampton. The sets, scenery and costumes are gorgeous and vividly created: witness the beginning scenes in which the golden couple of French society are dressed and prepared for going out by hordes of solemn servants. Glenn Close and John Malkovitch are on fine form as a pair of silky, poisonous plotters, in the days when aristos came with heads attached, whose greatest joy is playing various members of society against one another. The film's strength lies in the progress of Malkovitch's character whose malicious seductiveness begins to crumble against the onslaught of confusing emotional stress. The confusion is the viewer's too - has he really succumbed to love, or is he still using words as weapons of seduction. The climax of the film for me, was the "It's beyond my control" scene, in which Valmont subjects Mme de Tourval to excruciating emotional agony in order to relieve his own torment and attempt to regain that smooth and emotionless state with which he began the film.
Michelle Pfieffer and Uma Thurman are equally worthy of note as the pawns in a vicious game - even Keanu Reeves seems relaxed in his role as a penniless music teacher, as opposed to his stilted delivery in his later costume drama Dracula.
Whilst the support is good, the film undeniably beongs to Malkovitch and Close portraying two characters so assured of their own immortality, disaster strikes them both unawares. Note: the very final scene of the film in which the Marquise de Meurteuil removes her make-up after her fall from grace is one of the most poignant and horrifying: her inner ugliness is all of a sudden laid bare for all to see. Watch this with a bottle of wine and a box of Black Magic.
on 24 January 2001
Based on the same book as Cruel intentions, this film is far more subtle than its over americanised follower. If you like period films, this is deffinately worth watching, the superb quality of the acting by the whole cast, even Keanu Reeves, combined with great direction, script and costume all contribute to a wonderful film in which there is so much plot you may well become a little bit confused, but watch it again and you will come to appreciate the more subtle twist caused almost entirely by one characters plotting and desire for revenge. Revenge being what this film is really about, not love as it may seem at times. Watch this film and you won't regret it.
on 27 May 2005
The 18th Century setting of this excellent adaptation of the Christopher Hampton play in pre-revolutionary France, serves much better to amplify the story line than any modern day adaptation ever could. The seemingly villianous characters of the Marquis de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) with their plotting and machinations, are something that only that ghastly age could produce, with social divisons so wide it caused a revolution, as well as its culture of female repression. The sumptious costumes and cinematography emphasising the immense wealth and indolence of the aristocrats. The tight corsets of the women out of which they could barely breathe, emphasising the social restrictions that suffocated their spirits. That we know that the ultimate fate of these aristocrats was with "Madame de Guillotine" contributes to the atmosphere a subtle danger that pervades throughout the film, central to the plot of sexual intrigue and manipulation.
John Malkovich exudes charisma as Valmont and really does look like a french aristocrat from those times. It is unfortunate then that his seduction of Madame de Tourvelle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is conducted in the manner of a drill sargent, making his character as a lady killer a bit unbelievable. Michelle Pfeiffer and Glen Close give the best performances in the film. The torment of Madame de Tourville, played by Pfeiffer, struggling between her love for Valmont and everything she believes in, is acted with exquisite emotional honesty.
It is interesting that author Francois Choderlos de Laclos who wrote the original novel in 1782, being a man, had such a sympathetic insight into the inequalities and double standards the women of the time had to endure. The character of the Marquis de Merteuil being the anti-hero here as a supremely intelligent, capable woman in a society which offers her no outlet for her abilities, apart from destruction and manipulation. Although excellently acted, Glenn Close who plays her reminds me scarily of (a young) Margaret Thatcher!
It is probably the most definative adaptation of the original novel we are ever likely to get, with its message of the timeless constancy of candid, unsophisticated human nature, with its flaws, desires and vunerabilities. A film version with Lindsey Duncan and Alan Rickman as Merteuil and Valmont respectively (who were in the original Broadway version) would have been awesome. But sadly not meant to be. That aside, this version is pretty close to perfection.
Glenn Close, who portrays the Marquise De Merteuil, and John Malkovich as the Viscomte De Valmont, place on the screen two of the more evil characters to appear in the cinema. There are not evil as in starting a World War, but absolutely bereft of humanity as they live for the amusement found by falsely gaining and then destroying the affection, confidence and the love of others. Their motivation is as simple as why a person may climb a mountain, "because it is there". The same thinking is used to embark upon the dismantling of another on a whim, or due to an elaborately perceived slight. Their wealth and position allow them their evil games and they use these to full advantage.
The transfer from film to DVD is poor and unworthy of such a visually stunning film, especially one awarded for the visual spectacle the director and costumers created. The Chateau locations and their grounds are spectacular but they are hampered by a poor transfer. The film deserves better treatment and hopefully a better product combined with featurettes of the film's making will also find their way to a new disc.
The balance of the cast includes even more familiar names including Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman, Keanu Reeves, and Swoosie Kurtz. And while virtually all of these characters are harmed by the two primary practitioners of evil, they are not the same people who will suffer mortally, be it physical or social. And while not playing traditional roles, the spectacular homes, the period dress, and the elaborate ritual involved in 18th Century French Aristocratic living creates a visual treat.
The only reason I leave off the 5th star is because the transfer to DVD is so poor. This film was honored with many awards and has remained a favorite of viewers since 1989. As this is the case is deserves better treatment and the technology to do so is easily at hand.
This film adaptation is possibly one of the best adaptations I have ever seen committed to film. Featuring a standout cast including John Malkovic, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman (in one of her first films) and Keanu Reeves, of those mentioned I would say that John Malkovic and Michelle Pfeiffer gave the best performances. Both are mesmerizing in their respective roles and the rest of the cast are also on form with Glenn Close relishing her part.
I also felt the production design and the costumes were top drawer and the direction from Stephen Frears was first class. He managed to get the feel for the period of the time, 18th Century France, to perfection and brought out some dazzling set pieces and excellent performances from his cast. It won 3 Oscars (Best Screenplay Adaptation, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction) and it could have so easily have won more. Michelle Pfeiffer won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for her spellbinding performance as Madame de Tourville.
All in all then, this is a first class showpiece of how decent period costume dramas should look and the result is grand indeed. I have seen this film a number of times and it still looks fresh to me. I wonder if the studio will bring out a special edition DVD next year to mark the 20th Anniversary of this film's release. This is a breathtaking and beautiful film that left this reviewer in admiration.
on 4 December 2004
This is one of my favourite films BUT as usual these days in the rush to make money from one version of the film the company making the DVD have cut it to pieces. IT IS NOT the film that won those oscars, it is bits and pieces of it put together in a hurry which prevents you from enjoying the subtlety and nuance of the original. Several scenes have been cut from the original VHS version. I dont know why. I also dont understand how companies can market a film as a product when what they are actually giving you is not that same product. Perhaps they should call it Dangerous Liaisons (the ignorant American cut).
on 16 May 2007
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.
on 3 September 2005
I can't believe someone could only give this film 1-star. Well, I suppose I can - you have to be very sensual to appreciate this to the full extent, and that can't be everyone.
Malkovich is a bit... uber-Malkovich, I suppose, but he's still brilliant and of course, phenomenally sexy. He does the steady derangement of Valmont (from having to juggle maintainance of his reputation and an unexpected real love), superbly. This is especially apparent from the "Beyond my control" scene until the end of the film. Close is also incredible - she should really have got some kind of award. The Marquise is a deep and intense character with a shady past that you see more of in the book, but never once did I think her overplayed. Close's scenes with Malkovich were, for me, steeped in frisson such as I've never before seen created between two actors. In this respect you half watch the film and half get seduced by it. Pfeiffer is excellent, but in some way her performance doesn't stand out for me as much as the others' do. She just plays her part very well. Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman are good in their pawn roles. Men watching with ladies should derive pleasure from seeing the latter get a splendid pair out later on in the film (shame the Norfolk dude only tuned in for an hour).
on 4 October 2003
I first saw this film years ago and it still has the power to shock and enthrall me. A tale of lust, revenge, deception, power and greed - pretty much all the seven deadly sins in one gorgeous film! Glenn Close plays her character with glee - revelling in the power that her character can command over men. John Malkovich's character, hopeless against one woman's will. A wonderful performance from Michelle Pfeiffer playing the innocent married woman, used as a pawn in their power struggle. Each scene is more powerful than the next - leaving you breathless and struggling to remain impassive while the scenes are played out. This film will never date and its not hard to see why.
on 22 February 2013
This is one of those rare films which in which the underlying work (LaClos' epistolary novel), the adaptation (by Christopher Hampton for the stage and then for the screen), the director (Frears), the actors (Malkovitch, Pfeiffer, Close, Thurman and Keanu Reeves), who are not only perfectly cast but who also give among their best performances of their respective careers to date, all collaborate seamlessly in a breath-taking masterpiece. This may partly be because Hampton was also a co-Producer and therefore unusually influential even after executing his impeccable writing duties, but it also has a great deal to do with George Fenton's orchestration, the cinematography, costume-design and artful use of increasing moral and physical shadow. This has to be the best costume drama ever made but it is one of the best stories ever told, irrespective of the period in which it is set. It is so perfect that it is, in its final ten minutes, almost unwatchable in its lethal intent. The human heart is skewered on a blade and then butchered on the cold, empty white of human vanity. You may never get over it. Perfect.