How successful can someone be in the manipulation of another's emotions when she can't even get a handle on her own feelings? Unfortunately, fairly successful. (It doesn't hurt when she is surrounded by some of the most sumptuous costuming and scenery ever put on film.)
Dangerous Liaisons examines a world in which French aristocrats, bored with their lives of privilege, have nothing better to do than toy with the amorous lives of those they see as their intellectual inferiors. The sexual game of cat and mouse played between the Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont (John Malkovich) takes no prisoners.
Dangerous Liaisons is the type of film that can only grow better with repeat viewings. The language used is so rich in innuendo and sophisticated wordplay that it is almost impossible to catch it all the first time around. Both Close and Malkovich supply an air of evil that is punctuated by a sadness boiling just below the surface.
The supporting cast (including Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman, and Keanu Reeves) supply a youthful vulnerability that is ripe for the picking. (Thankfully, KeanuÂs dialog is limited to a few lines. He is much better at just looking pretty in front of the camera.) PfeifferÂs Madame Marie de Tourvel is no match for Valmont. I found myself hoping that she could just escape him with at least a shred of dignity intact.
The sentiments on male/female relations Madame de Rosemonde shares with Madame Tourvel are fascinating. They almost sound like passages from a Rococo edition of HeÂs Just Not That Into You.
The opening of the film, Merteuil and Valmont waking and dressing for the day, was very interesting. The viewer sees their facades being lifted into place with the tying of each lace and the selection of each wig. It is immediately clear that there will be no easy way to get to the real person behind the reputation.
In the end, Merteuil and Valmont get what they deserve, but it left me feeling hallow. Their wicked diversions seem grotesque magnifications of the emotional games that are played everyday to hide true emotions.
Hollywood certainly has an affinity for this material, making it into a movie no less than three times (including Cruel Intentions and Valmont).