The imperious Jeanne Moreau stars in this modernized adaptation of the classic French novel of seduction and deceit, Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Moreau and Gérard Philipe play the amoral Juliette and Valmont, a wife and h... more »usband in 1960s Paris who tell each other everything about their endless affairs; they respect nothing but each other's manipulative skill. But when Valmont genuinely falls in love with a virtuous woman (Annette Vadim, the director's wife at the time), Juliette tastes the bitterness of jealousy for the first time. Her revenge destroys not only their lives, but the lives of several innocents as well. Director Roger Vadim is unsubtle, but not without style. Like his other films (And God Created Woman, Barbarella), Liaisons features discreet nudity and aloof displays of passion, but the brilliantly orchestrated plot gives Liaisons real momentum, helped by a fantastic score from jazz giant Thelonious Monk. --Bret Fetzer« less
A Masterpiece from Roger Vadim?! Was it possible?! Yes!
TUCO H. | Los Angeles, CA | 11/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This one is up there with Stephen Frears' version starring Glen Close and John Malkovich and is in some ways even better. Most of Vadim's films are laughed at today and people tend to throw this one in with the rest, which is a mistake. Chaderlos de Laclos' sensibility is very close to what Vadim imagined himself to be at the time, or at least was striving for, before he sold-out and became a completely insignificant director. This film was his last try at something approaching integrity and he seems to have given it his all, because the results are more than a little magnificent. First of all, the fabulous Jeanne Moreau is at the peak of her career in this film, and she just absolutely OWNS her role, even more so than Glen Close did in the Frears version, radiating a mixture of evil and sensuality and whimsical decadence that's hard to describe but easy to be completely fascinated by on the screen. Also, Gerard Phillipe, the 'James Dean of France' who was known as one of the most wooden actors of his generation (for proof of this woodenness in a GREAT film that transcends Phillipe's acting limitations, check out Jacques Becker's MODIGLIANI, MONTPARNASSE 19), finally comes into his own on this film (his last before he died), and gives a magnificent nuanced performance, full of decadent amorality. The influence of the New-Wave is all over the film, as it was enjoying the only commercial successes it was to have at the time in films like "The 400 Blows," and "Breathless." Phillipe would've adjusted himself to these types of films had he lived just fine, if his performance here is any indication, and Moreau is a complete natural in the freer more neo-realist inspired mise-en-scenes of all the younger directors. Her huge scandalous success in Louis Malle's "The Lovers" had shown that she was the most daring actress of her time and since the New-Wavers weren't opposed to exploiting a little sex to get themselves more of an audience, she was the more refined and elegant natural anti-dote to Brigitte Bardot (After putting Moreau in maybe her greatest role in "Jules et Jim," Truffaut could've made his film "Mississippi Mermaid," 3 years sooner had he agreed to go with Bardot, yet he insisted that it was "Catherine Deneuve or nothing" and waited until 1968 because of Bardot's reputation for being a difficult and capricious star). Vadim transposes the story to a contemporary setting of 1960s France & ski resorts for the upper classes, and best of all, puts a Thelonious Monk jazz soundtrack on throughout, with Kenny Dorham and other black jazz players in the film's party scenes throughout. He introduces the film himself hilariously in a heavily French-accented English (striking that intellectual-super-pimp-of-the-rich-and-famous pose he was already known for), contrasting the type of woman he made famous in Briggite Bardot (the overripe girl), with the type he's trying to represent through the Moreau chacater (a woman who refuses to adjust herself to a man's world, etc), in this film, which indicates that he was trying to fuse Chaderlos de Laclos with trends he saw in contemporary France! Now that's ambition! Certainly much more than it would take to make "Barbarella"! Rent it from a well-stocked store today & see what Vadim was up to once! Let's hope someone brings out the DVD and they bless us with a good friggin transfer. This film deserves it."
Matthew Patton | Deltona, Florida | 02/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Roger Vadim is hardly a distinguished name in the history of film, but he was always better than most of his detractors thought, and when he ran into good material and a strong cast, good things happened.
That's certainly the case here, a smart, fast tightly-wound adaptation of Chaderos de Lalcos' 18th-century novel of lust and cruelty (and an attempt by de Lalcos, a rather reactionary Catholic, to indict the decay he thought that free-thinking and a lessening of religious faith had brought to French society). No version of this material can completely overcome the original material's sexism and misogyny (only modest, submissive women could be "good" in de Lalcos' eyes), but with intelligence and sensitivity, the characters can be complicated and deepened. And I suspect that even free-thinking atheists enjoy the spectacle of Valmont and Merteuil getting theirs . . .
One of the nice twists of this version (written by Vadim, Roger Vailland, and Claude Brule), is that de Lalcos' villainous pair are now married, although the rest of the plot is pretty much as before; Merteuil (Jeanne Moreau) angry at being dumped by a lover before she could get around to dumping him, asks her husband to seduce and ruin the innocent girl (Jeanne Valery) that she has been dumped for. While off on this, er, mission, Valmont (Gerard Philippe) meets a kind and virtuous married woman (Annette Vadim) and vows to have her. Eventually, both the virgin and the married woman are seduced, but complications spring up; for one thing, the younger woman is truly in love with a young man her own age (Jean-Louis Triginant) and Valmont genuinely falls in love with the married woman, and vice versa. Merteuil, who is in love with her husband, but loathe to admit it (and therefore to emotional vulnerability), sets out to get revenge and sets a series of events in motion that end in Valmont's death and her own physical and emotional desolation.
The success of any version of this material rises and falls on the strength of the leads, and in Moreau and Philippe, Vadim struck gold. Moreau has every ounce of the dignity and style that Glenn Close brought to the 1989 version of this story, but far more sensuality and (though the character would be loathe to admit it) vulnerability--she makes you understand towards the end that Merteuil is, in her own warped way, expressing her love for, and need of, her husband. She doesn't want to lose him. And Philippe, in the last film before his early death, has a wonderful soft-spoken charm, and an ability to show the callous self-absorption beneath it. And when his character really falls in love, as he does with the virtuous Madame Tourvel, he makes the character's awakening to real emotion deeply touching. As Madame Tourvel, Annette Vadim is genuinely touching, and unlike Michelle Pfeffier some 30 years later, she had the kind of dignity and bearing that the character needs (even her brief nude scene, towards the end of the film, feels much less exploitative and sleazy than other such scenes in Vadim films do; he didn't make her over into a baby doll, either in this film or the subsequent BLOOD AND ROSES). Jeanne Valery and Jean-Louis Trinigant, as the young innocent targeted for ruin and the young man she loves, are funny and appealing and touching as inexperienced youngsters who are put through the fire of ugly experience but emerge with their basic decency intact.
And one cannot talk about this film without mentioning Thelonious Monk's graceful, witty, and ultimately mournful score. It hovers over the action like the secret voice of a mournful deity, watching the mess that his creations have made of their lives with both a detached amusment and a deep, sympathetic sorrow."
Interesting but disappointing....
LadyKate | Middletown, NJ USA | 05/25/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Choderlos de Laclos is one of my favorite books. I've seen all the other adaptations, and with a cast like Jeanne Moreau and Gerard Philippe I was really looking forward to seeking this one. Well... the performances are great, but the film leaves a lot to be desired. In contrast to the more recent TV film with Rupert Everett and Catherine Deneuve, it does not fare quite so well in adapting the story to a 20th century (1950s/early 1960s) setting. Making Valmont and Merteuil (Juliette in this version, perhaps a reference to the Marquis de Sade's anti-heroine) husband and wife rather than ex-lovers was a really bad idea, since it totally alters their dynamic and removes one of the key elements in the characters' motivation: Valmont's pact with Merteuil that she will spend the night with him if he can seduce the pious Madame de Tourvel. Also, the film feels very "rushed," especially toward the end -- 106 minutes just isn't enough to do justice to this story and these characters.There are some very good touches: Valmont's break-up letter to Tourvel -- which, in the novel, he copies verbatim from a letter Merteuil writes to him -- becomes a telegram dictated by Juliette. This is also the only film adaptation of the novel which preserves the theme of Merteuil's disfigurement and "her soul turning out on her face"; the novel's smallpox becomes a fire in the film. The final image is very arresting. But it's not enough to make up for the scant characterization and the other flaws of this film."
French charm and coldness
Merilahti Kristiina | Finland | 10/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have not been a great fan of Roger Vadim. For feminist reasons, naturally: it doesn't raise a lot of confidence to know, how he treated women and made them all look like blond barbiedolls. But sometimes he did good movies. This is a good one. And he didn't make Jeanne Moreau dye her hair blonde!
In this black-and-white version there is a lot of 60's elegance, mainly because of the stars Jeanne Moreau and Gérard Philipe. They both were very beautiful people and in addition good actors, just look at Moreau's radiant charm combined with utter coldness and calculativeness and Philipe's careless, boyish charm, that turns into sincere tenderness only to be buried by his basic selfishness. There is an interesting point making these two a married couple, who deny each other nothing, provided they tell each other everything about their conquests. They fool themselves thinking this is the only real love, that all this is just a funny game and other people don't just get it. But they must learn, that there are bigger things than sexual satisfaction.
Vadim also went further than the new versions of this film, Dangerous liaisons with Malkovich and Valmont with Colin Firth. There is no honour or grandeur in Philipe's death and Moreau gets her comeuppance, too. Other actors did well also and the visual part of the film is also elegant but rather cold - very fitting to the story. Valmont's love-nest, then, is a funny little house that for some reason is very high like built on top of a chimney - an escape from their real world and other people. The movie is well worth watching if you like these actors or the French old movies. I wasn't disappointed."
Excellent Film by Vadim with fantastic Jeanne Moreau and Ger
G. Gregorio | Canada | 05/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I loved this film. It is a loose adaptation of the De Laclos story but worth seeing for it's fantastic actors: Jeanne Moreau and Gerard Philipe. I recommend this movie."