Josée Dayan's Exquisite Updated Adaptation
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 11/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This review refers to "Les Liasions Dangereuses" - 270 minute extended edition(Wellspring DVD)...
I love this story and try to see every version of it that comes out. This one made in 2003, by the wonderful Josée Dayan, is purely exquisite. This tale of deadly seduction is updated and adapted to the 1960's. A good choice by the director, as we get to see it played out differently and although much closer to the present, still gives that feel that 40 years ago, the moralities of the key players might still have been considered a bit of a shocker.
In this update, the story revolves around a Center For the Arts, that is run by none other then the woman we all love to hate, Madame de Mereuil. She and long time, on and off again lover, Valmont scheme and connive to destroy relationships and lives. Revenge is Madame's wish, and Valmont is only too happy to comply with her wishes, knowing that she will be his reward in the end. He is the best when a seduction is at hand. But things get complicated for Valmont, when his heart takes an unexpected turn towards Madame Tourvel. Innocent bystanders, the young Cécile de Volanges and virtuoso musician Raphael Danceny, also get pulled into the web of deceit. Valmont wants out though, and must find the weakness that will put an end to Madame Merteuil. It's a marvelous tale of wickedness.
Now, I know some may agree with me that no one can compare to John Malkovich's take on Valmont, but I must say, that Rupert Everett is quite convincing and actually, physically, takes on the look of the devil himself. And who else but Catherine Deneuve, could follow an act like Glenn Close. Deneuve's take is a little different, she gives Madame a multi-faceted personality that at times is even likeable. So we, the audience, get drawn into her schemes as well. And she is so beautiful, even now, one can hardly take their eyes off of her.
Nastassi Kinski as Madame Tourvel and Leelee Sobieski is Cecile. Both turning in excellent performances. Danielle Darrieux, is Valmont's wise Aunt, who seems to see all.
It's an excellent production. Beautiful and vivid colors that take you back to the 60's. Fabulous costumes, and scenery. Presented in widescreen(anamorphic) and 5.1 Sound in French with English subtitles. It's a three part production. Each part on a separate disc, each running about an hour and a half. Be sure to catch the lengthy conversation with Dayan in the special features.
Play the game once more in this absolutely mesmerizing update.
An excellent adaptation...
Nichomachus | 04/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"An excellent adaptation of Laclos' LES LIASONS DANGEREUSES. Most screen adaptations of this novel are several degrees of horrible. The charm of the book, which is absolutely brilliant, is that it is structured by correspondence; it consists of letters between the characters. The literary thrusts in the book, therefore, are often far more delectable than the more literal thrusts between the characters. Thus, adaptation is extremely difficult. In this film all of the plot points are followed, but with some noticeable changes. First, Gercourt is actually a character, where in the novel he is always significantly absent. Gercourt, however, was miscast. The fellow is just too old to make a credible fiance to a 19-year old girl in 1960s France. Second, obviously, the context is not eighteenth-century France, but an elegant Paris in the Sixties. The cars used in this production are absolutely stunning; they almost glow. Third, Deneuve is a wonderful actress, and her portrayal of Merteuil is far superior to Glenn Close, however she is too old. In the book she was in her late twenties, and a woman in her mid-thirties would have been more credible here.Also, the writers fleshed out the ending quite a bit in very interesting and humanizing ways, where Laclos sort of just sort of killed everyone off with gusto. The inclusion of all of the characters, and the development of all of their interrelationships makes this a very long movie (270 minutes!). The movie is often visually stunning. Many of the sets absorb light in beautiful ways, radiating their darkness.This film is infinitely superior to Close and Malkovich's botched DANGEROUS LIAISONS, which was just overblown, overacted ham, in my opinion. Valmont's descent into his crisis of indistinguishable sincerity/insincerity is wonderfully portrayed by Rupert Everett.An interesting adaptation of the book, which will interest its fans. Those who are interested in the story, yet don't like to read, will find all of the entirety of the book represented, though adapted and interpreted quite differently."
An (Entire) Evening of Intrigue, Elegance, and Intelligence
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Clocking in at 270 minutes, this 2003 French film version of Choderlos de Laclos' perennially popular 18th century novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses' about the extant concerns of seduction, betrayal and revenge requires not only a long time segment of your life to enjoy, it also requires much on the part of viewer participation to stay abreast of the fascinatingly tangled plot.
Director Josée Dayan has accommodated Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's adaptation to the screen and in doing so has updated this elegant, high costume drama into the haute couture setting of Paris in the 1960s. There have been many filmed and staged versions of de Laclos' novel and while they all have had their strong points, for this viewer Dayan's film unravels the plot and the characters with much more finesse and ultimate credibility than the predecessors.
Many have scoffed at the casting of the still gorgeous Catherine Deneuve as Madame de Merteuil, claiming that the author had in mind a much younger femme fatale for this role. But times have changed, women are more sensually alive in the age realm of Deneuve, and for me the casting is perfect: here is a woman of the world who is not just out to spar with Valmont (another very well cast Rupert Everett) in a deadly game of lover's vengeance, she is also facing the fact (like the Marschallin in 'Der Rosenkavlier') that her wealth and aging beauty are on the wane and that makes her a much more fleshed out character.
The story is well known: Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil, once in an affair years ago with Valmont and remaining in an approach/avoidance relationship with that libertine in a very dangerous liaison, has been rejected by her long standing lover Gercourt (Andrzej Zulawski) for the beautiful young pianist Cécile de Volanges (Leelee Sobieski). de Merteuil convinces Valmont to seduce and impregnate Cecile in order to destroy Gercourt's new love and in return Valmont coerces de Merteuil into promising to let him in her bed at last.
In the process of performing his part of the wager Valmont encounters Marie (Nastassja Kinski), a married woman who will not succumb to Valmont's superficial advances, making her all the more attractive to Valmont. And while Valmont is at the estate of his aunt Madame de Rosemonde (Danielle Darrieux), playing the game with Cecile and Marie, M. de Merteuil is feeding misinformation to a young violin student at her music academy Raphael Danceny (Tedi Papavrami), convincing him that his accompanist Cecile, though promised to Gercourt, has fallen in love with Danceny! Cecile does indeed become pregnant, threatening her future, Valmont eventually seduces Marie with disastrous reults, and de Merteuil seduces Danceny to satisfy her pride.
How all of these threads are woven into a deeper and more complex interplay of morals, ethics, passion, and revenge is the tale that unravels slowly but tightly. The ending is different from the novel: we are no longer in the days when duels could settle any matter of honor or pride. But this ending is equally as cruel and harsh as the original.
The interplay between Deneuve and Everett is something to behold - razor-sharp, vituperative, and scintillating. One does wonder why the director selected a cast where three of the characters are basically English speaking, but those three perform so well that the question is without foundation. The musical score by Angelo Badalamenti is one of the finest on film and the cinematography by Caroline Champetier is sumptuous: the differences between her choices for light and shadow whether for interiors or exteriors shows a sensitive eye.
For this reviewer the author of the novel would probably applaud this updated version of this complex and fascinating story. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, April 05
You Can Have it Both Ways: Deneuve and Close
Randolph Bradley | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The good thing about this 2003 version is that I kept thinking it was "very current," but it is set in the 1960s. I mean to say that the evil theme and accompanying drama are ageless. The version by Glen Close and John Malkovitch is the standard to me. However, the Catherine Deneuve and Rupert Everett version shines uniquely in its own way. Thus, both versions are exquisite interpretations of a notorious story. This review is about the Short Version in English, not the long version in French.
I have read some reviews here and there on this version that say that Deneuve is not believable as a sex object. My response is that she could be if she was ever a sex object to you. For instance, when she acted in Belle de Jour, or when she was the face for Chanel Couture in the 80s. Thus, the vestige of that profound beauty is preserved in her slightly bloated body and weary face. To me, real beauty is that kind that ages, yet maintains some of the original vitality and aura of its former self. Catherine does this. Moreover, this production emphasizes how lust is absolutely enhanced by wealth, luxury, and power. It is then credible why teenage boys may want to have an affair with a woman old enough to be their mother. That phenomenon can be compared to drinking a 50-year-old cabernet or merlot. What wine connoisseur could resist???? Either sex, when precocious, appreciates instruction from a master. Valmont desires Madame de Merteuil because she is no longer accessible, because she is a master seductress, and not because she is sexy (although the average heterosexual male will find her sexy). She was a very rich, very powerful woman in Haute Parisienne society, which is comparable to heroin to some. Predators thrive on conquests.
Deneuve is splendid in her Gaultier costumes and, to me, she ages much better than did Grace Kelly/ Princess Grace.
There was a very aggravating flaw in the technical aspect of this version (the 200 minute English), as Catherine's dubbed dialogue always seemed to be one or two syllables off. I chose to ignore this.
Also, for the very bad human behavior, or Valmonts and de Merteuil's dangerous liaison, to be based on Madame de Merteuil's bitter jealousy makes perfect sense to me. First, Valmont and Merteuil are already "ruined" spiritually having been using people as pawns for a long time, and themselves being used, so there were no moral scruples that could have been expected of them anyway. In reality, evil for the sake of evil is perfect balance to good for the sake of good. You cannot have good without almost an equal amount of evil. C'est La Vie.
Note: An important distinction between the Glen Close and Deneuve versions is that Rupert's Valmont acts out his revenge against Madame de Merteuil in greater detail than did Malkovitch's Valmont. Rupert systematically moves among the other characters in an attempt to redeem himself particularly for the damage done to innocent Marie Tourvel (Nastassja Kinski), whom he fell in love with unexpectedly (by fate) and foolishly destroyed by caprice.
Valmont/Rupert feels that death is a form of release from the torment of remorse and says: " . . . to bring about your ruin (i.e. Madame de Merteuil) has brought me no consolation. My proposal to be your friend or your foe was also meaningless, each individual is first a victim of himself."
If you can believe in Divine Retribution, then we can see intervention from God, who caused Valmont to fall in love with one of his victims during, perhaps, the most dangerous game he has ever played. So, ideally, he can never have the love that he would desire, because love is not a virtue suited for the wicked. I perceive it will be the most impossibly desired "concept" in hell by the damned, where longing will exceed the agony of fire. Christians know that Jesus values love, joy, peace, virtue, etc. greater than diamonds and gold. These are his treasure, and are jealously guarded. Christ allows lust (fake love) to proliferate among the wicked, but NEVER love.
I don't think I will ever be able or even want to seriously criticize any version of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, as this story is a masterpiece that defines how we can sometimes get into a relationship easily that turns out to be impossible to exit without unseen personal damage or destruction.