Title: Dangerous Liaisons
Country: USA, UK
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Stephen Frears
Choderlos de Laclos
Music: George Fenton
Cinematography: Philippe Rousselot
First of all, no offence, but calling John Malkovich “conspicuously charming” and watching him French-kissing both Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman (an underage ingenue), have smeared the film for me, at least it is my case, maybe many will rebuke my subjective opinion (I am not a girl so what the hack do I know?), but owing to the fact that he had been almost exclusively snubbed by the award season, while the film has clutched 7 Oscar nominations (including BEST PICTURE, BEST ACTRESS for Close and BEST S. ACTRESS for Pfeiffer) and 3 wins (Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction and Costume Design), which has a clear-cut spin from the mass and the critics at that time, I am not saying it is an awful performance (on the contrary, Malkovich is conspicuously in his top-form to indulge himself into the libidinous libertine alter ago), but a miscast sometimes does besmirch the film, it happens (let’s not mention the callow couple Reeves and Thurman here).
Although the opulent costumes and Rococo interior decor will never be tainted by time since they are meticulously reinstated that period, the film itself has bit by bit lost its relish which may be the characteristic eminence from the source novel and play: an intricate scrutiny of the sex-and-love tangles dominated by jealousy, vanity, revenge, lust and possession, and it’s well-off echelon’s game, so the detachment is not only from time, but also from some moral apathy towards the rotten class.
Director Stephen Frears is a polymorphous journeyman, but falls shy of distinctiveness (usually his works are more actor-driven vehicles, to wit, THE QUEEN 2006, MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS 2005, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS 2002, THE GRIFTERS 1990), in this periodic sex drama, mostly indoor tableaux, Frears relies on his Oscar-calibre cast to enrich the sentimental spectacle.
Close and Pfeiffer are pitch-perfect as the antithesis of women, a feline matriarch vs. an innocent victim (a similar situation in Iain Softley’s UK-based period melodrama THE WINGS OF THE DOVE 1997), both have their Oscar-worthy meaty baits up their sleeves, Close has honed up to a magnificent breakdown scene, a theatre-exiting drama and a make-up removing curtain call all near the end; while Pfeiffer’s role has an inherent affinity resonating with the audience merely by the wretched prey default.
So, put the film into the context of 21 century, the film and its story might sounds mawkish and theatrical, but still we have a Chinese version this year by South Korean director Jin-ho Hur, starring a stellar Chinese-Korean cast, Ziyi Zhang, Dong-gun Jang and Cecilia Cheung, but after watching this Hollywood version, I think I should skip the new version in case of a worse exploitation may make me sick to the hilt.