Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
France/USA, 1989. Renn Productions, Timothy Burrill Productions. Screenplay by Jean-Claude Carriere, Milos Forman, based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos. Cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek. Produced by Michael Hausman, Paul Rassam. Music by Christopher Palmer. Production Design by Pierre Guffroy. Costume Design by Paule Mangenot, Theodor Pistek, Carine Sarfati. Film Editing by Nena Danevic, Alan Heim.
Coming out one year after Stephen Frears’ successful Dangerous Liaisons, which was an adaptation of the same Choderlos de Laclos novel as this period piece, comparisons between the two were inevitable and not necessarily fair. Liaisons was based on the play by Christopher Hampton, which was adapted from the de Laclos novel, while Valmont takes its story directly from the novel and as such plays out differently. Colin Firth makes for a more romantic, moodier Vicomte de Valmont than John Malkovich did, a morally dubious nobleman who uses sexual seduction as a confirmation of his power. Annette Bening plays the sinfully manipulative Marquise de Merteuil who indulges in bargains with the Vicomte over one conquest after another, in this particular instance centering around the young and innocent Cecile (Fairuza Balk). Reality enters the story when Valmont’s obsession with ruining a fine society woman (Meg Tilly) turns into real love. Bening is earthy and light, not the same viciously cunning picture that Glenn Close so terrifyingly painted, while Tilly is a wishywashy Tourvel who isn’t even worth comparing to Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of the same character. Sumptuously produced with beautiful costumes and sets, this one is in my opinion inferior to the other film but owing to its being so different in rhythm and tone might appeal more to other viewers.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Costume Design