Talk about too little, too late. A year after Stephen Frears's marvelous Dangerous Liaisons, Milos Forman released this film, based on the same material: the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Shot at the same time but held s... more »o as not to compete, it suffered by comparison. The story--about a pair of aristocrats, former lovers, who wager that the man cannot seduce a particularly chaste woman--is still awash in lust and intrigue. But, while Forman's craft was exceptional, his cast couldn't match the power of its predecessor. In particular, Colin Firth, as the game-playing title character, lacked the snaky charm of John Malkovich, and Meg Tilly couldn't compare to the tragic beauty of Michelle Pfeiffer. Annette Bening, though born to play a vixen, seemed callow and insubstantial next to the sinister depths of Glenn Close. --Marshall Fine« less
"Both "Valmont" and "DL" have their own merits.... but I personally find "Valmont" to be the better movie. REASONS:1) Its perfect casting - especially Fairuza Balk as the extremely naive and innocent 15-year old Cecile. You must watch this movie to find out just how wonderfully charming and adoring she is. By comparison, Uma Thurman's "Cecile" in "DL" seems too old and sophisticated for the character. Annette Benning is also brilliant as the calculating and scheming "de Merteuil". In "Valmont", de Merteuil appears more human - she shows both her good and bad sides i.e. she's not ALL bad/evil like Glenn Glose's portrayal of the character in "DL". Colin Firth also makes for a more likeable and dashing Valmont than John Malkovich in "DL". I find Glenn Close and John Malkovich's portrayals to be too "scary" for anyone to be genuinely attracted to them. Their characters seem a little too cold and "serpent-like" to me.2) The sets, cinematography and costumes in "Valmont" are more lavish and beautiful than in "DL". In "Valmont", there are more out-of door scenes e.g. the very lovely scene in the park where Valmont (Colin Firth) manages to coax the shy and proper Mdm de Tourveil (played by the luminous Meg Tilly) to get on the horse with him where he then proceeds to teach her archery, and the ensuing dance-and-picnic scene. In "Valmont", Cecile also plays the harp and sings a couple of beautiful songs.3) A better screenplay and a more natural dialogue. This adaptation is also more detailed and thorough, and has more humour. Unlike in "DL" where the character of Gercourt (Cecile's fiance - a rich, older man) does not make an appearance at all, in "Valmont", his character (played to perfection by Jeffrey Jones) gets proper screen time. Also, Cecile's character is given more prominence here."Valmont" runs for slightly over 2 hours. The last 15 minutes of the movie is a little dissapointing, though. The ending is rather different from the novel's. Another little complaint of mine is that Colin Firth's Valmont seems less passionate towards Mdm de Tourveil than he should be. Right up to the end of the movie, we don't see him being "tormented by love" at all. He doesn't seem to care much when he realizes that Mdm de Tourveil has left him and returned to her husband.The ending in "DL" has more "oomph!" actually, although it is very disturbing. But, OVERALL, I find "Valmont" to be the more enjoyable adaptation as it is so... beautiful to watch and has many wonderful moments that will make the viewer laugh and cry.
Quite sad that while "DL" garnered many Oscar nominations, "Valmont" (being released just a year later), didn't do quite as well at the Oscars.My advice: watch both versions!"
An Exquisitely Beautiful Film
Nicolas Leobold | New York, NY United States | 08/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Valmont" is one of my favorite films of all time. It is so lovely to look at, with lavish sets, lovely country locations, exquisitely crafted costumes, and brilliant production design, that I have literally watched it over and over again. When you watch this movie, you are transported into the luxury of 17th Century aristocratic France. It also skillfully integrates music into the production, when Cecile and Madame de Merteuile go to the Opera, or when Cecile is performing songs with her harp. Of course, I want to make it clear to you right now that all reviews claiming that "Dangerous Liaisons" is a better film than Valmont are dead wrong! It is truly a tragic circumstance when a film as beautiful as "Valmont" is overlooked because of an inferior product such as "DL", just because "DL" came out first. Colin Firth is so much more likeable and dashing than John Malkovich. Annette Bening is much better than Glenn Close. In fact, the entire cast is perfect, as is every other detail of this movie, thanks to Director Milos Forman (the quality of this film is no accident). There are also fine supporting performances by Henry Thomas, Jeffrey Jones, Sian Phillips, and the last performance of the legendary Fabia Drake, who steals all the scenes she's in. But what you have to understand about "Valmont" is that it's a different kind of movie than "DL". "Dangerous Liaisons" was a cold, sinister, mean-hearted film. "Valmont" is gay, light-hearted at times, sad, tragic and heartbreaking at others. But it is never cold, and is always beautiful. And I will never neglect to say that Meg Tilly, as Madame de Tourville, is the most lovely, beautiful, and perfect creature to have ever graced the silver screen. Forget about all other actresses, Meg Tilly is the one for me. Fortunately, this film is now scheduled for release on DVD and might get the attention it truly deserves. If ever a film could exploit the brilliance of DVD technology, this one will."
Best version of LIAISONS
Dennis Littrell | 03/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Milos Forman was scooped. Stephen Frear's DANGEROUS LIAISONS came out first and had a starrier cast. But it was Forman's film that captured the tragic irony of the original book. Frear's film is pure cornball. Glenn Close and Malkovich ham it up as rich, spoiled, and extremely mean people who go through great lenghts to use and hurt as many people as possible for no apparent reason, until the day that Malkovich falls for the nun-like Pfeiffer and then the plot develops with all of the misunderstandings and forced tears of the old, stage melodramas.
Milos Forman's film, however, is a masterpiece. He did not make the characters so black and white as they are in the other film, and he also gave his characters motivations, which justify all actions and turns of the plot. In fact, the film is a vast improvement on the novel, as Forman adds his great observations of human nature and his own unique brand of irony. In VALMONT, you never assume anything. I recommend seeing both films as a great tool to compare real art with crap."
Sexual decadence before the time of the guillotine
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 08/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I liked this better than Dangerous Liaisons which came out at about the same time. Of course Dangerous Liaisons was very good, and John Malkovich, who played Vicomte de Valmont, is an actor of power, and Glenn Close, who played the Marquise de Merteuil, is highly accomplished, but I preferred the charm of Colin Firth in this film to the brutality of Malkovich, and I thought Annette Bening was just delightful. She played Merteuil with exquisite timing and an ironic witchery and warmth that I shall not soon forget. I preferred her playful, sly wit to Close's cool cynicism.The story comes from a novel by Choderlos de Laclos set in 18th century France that was made into a stage play by Christopher Hampton. It is a cynical satire on human sexuality as well as a very subtle examination of sexual hypocrisy and desire, a kind of oh so sophisticated laugh at bourgeois morality that would have delighted Voltaire and Moliere and greatly amused Shakespeare. It is a tale of elaborate lechery and revenge that backfires because it seems that anybody, even the most jagged rake can fall in love, and thereby become the victim. The central assumption here is the same as that of the Cavalier poets, namely that marriage kills love. As Merteuil says, "You don't marry your lover."Meg Tilly played Madame de Tourvel with subtlety and a riveting passion. One of the great sequences in the movie occurs after she has fallen madly in love with Valmont against her will. She stands outside his doorway in the rain for hours looking adoringly and forlornly up at his window. And then she is allowed to enter and receive a cool reception. Valmont says, "Do you want me to lie to you?" and she replies desperately, "Yes," and then it is her passion that overwhelms him, leading to a beautifully ironic twist. Shortly afterward he sees Merteuil, who has become more like a sister than an ex-lover, and says, "I feel awful." She replies, "Are you surprised? [Pause] You are an awful man." Hanging his head he continues, "Do you think a man can change?" "Yes. [Pause] For the worse."This theme, that it is the beloved who has the power and that once you fall in love you lose all power, is repeated several times in the movie. Valmont pursues women, the harder to get the better, with a relentless and maniacal passion, but once he has them, he immediately loses interest. His making love absentmindedly to Cecile de Volanges (played with wide-eyed innocence and girlish charm by Fairuza Balk) was an incredible irony when we consider what she would cost Gercourt, played with his rather substantial nose in the air by Jeffrey Jones, whom you may recall as the pratfalling principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986).There is some insidious philosophy here, some sardonic observations on human nature worth mentioning. One is that the man beloved of women gets most of the reproductive tries, and regardless of his rakishness, is still beloved. Another is that duplicity is the accepted, even required, standard of behavior in society, and that when it comes to sex, one must, perforce, always lie. Milos Forman's direction was invisible and therefore a work of art. The incidental scenes and backdrops depicting the color, squalor and decadence of pre-revolutionary France added just the right amount of atmosphere. The costumes were stunning and much cleaner than they would have been in reality. The elegance and beauty of all the titled people merrily contrasted with the crude ugliness of the common people, rightly reflecting the effete snobbery of the aristocracy before the time of the guillotine."
A Close Call With Dangerous Liaisons
Octavius | United States | 08/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I found this adaptation by Milos Forman to be better acted in some of the roles than the earlier release of Dangerous Liasons. Colin Firth as Valmont seemed more to be the type of Don Giovanni aristocrat of that period than John Malkovich's sinister rendition. Michell Pfeiffer simply failed to deliver a credible performance as an 18th century demoiselle; like many other method actors, she can only play herself. In that respect, Meg Tilly was more convincing as the innocent victim of Valmont's scheme. I did like Glenn Close more than Annette Bening as the wicked vixen but, overall, Valmont more closely represented the mannerisms and culture of 18th century France than Dangerous Liaisons."