Dangerous Liaisons

Stephen Frears, USA 1988, 120 minutes

Chordelos de Laclos' 1782 novel of sexual power games was a stage hit before Frears picked it up, reproducing the pre-revolutionary French setting in decadent, lavish detail.

Former lovers, the rakish Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) and the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close), continually indulge each other in feats of manipulative infamy. The Marquise challenges Valmont to deflower the virginal Uma Thurman before her marriage to Merteuil's former lover (Keanu Reeves). He finds this too easy and decides to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Malkovich, underrated as ever, plays the Vicomte as a sly, suave sexual predator, backed by the calculating Close, the puppeteer and overseer of all his actions. Pfeiffer puts in a typically polished performance, continually running from the intimidating Malkovich.

The compelling aspect of this film is two Machiavellian main characters and their ultimate downfall. They use and abuse indiscriminately, and it is not until the end when, in one of the most thrilling climaxes ever, we see their fragile and insecure side.

"A gloriously seductive comedy in the most delicate shade of black *****" - Empire

Review by Andrew Hesketh
Taken from EUFS Programme 1996-97

A sumptuous tale of sex, scandal and intrigue, Dangerous Liaisons, directed by Stephen Frears, is truly a film to savour. Faithful to Choderos de Laclos' 18th century novel, Frears has succeeded in producing a film which captures the mores and ethos of an elite societal group, a group for which manipulation and sexual power games are a way of life. John Malkovich is superb as the philanderer Valmont, and Glenn Close is suitably conniving as the aristocrat with whom he plots the undoing of the saintly Michelle Pfeiffer. Indeed, the acting is a joy to behold from all quarters, and the costumes and sets add to the magnificent sense of time and place which the film evokes. A film which improves with each viewing, you miss it at your peril.

Review by Malcolm Maclaren
Taken from EUFS Programme 1993-94