Thursday, January 01, 2015

Movie review - "Les Liaisons dangereuses" (1959) ***

Years before Cruel Intentions there was another modern day updating of this famous tale, which resulted in Roger Vadim's biggest hit - it made more at the French box office than And God Created Women. The public were no doubt in part attracted by some other factors: the movie was banned for export for two years, featured Gerard Philippe in one of his last roles, and encountered criticism from literary organisations who requested the name be changed to add "1960" at the end so people didn't think it was a straight adaptation.

Setting the film in the modern day does mean you lose some French revolution era political stuff (as well as fun costumes). This feels very much late 50s with it's black and white photography, suits and ties, and Thelodius Monk jazz score. There are some scenes in the French Alps but it's more comfortable in the world of late night parties and bedrooms.

There are two particularly excellent interpreters in Jeanne Moreau (as Juliette) and Gerard Philippe (as Valmont) (aka Glenn Close and John Malkovich, or Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe). Here the two are married and have a full on open relationship, having affairs and telling each other in detail about them - a device which works really well (and may have contributed to the censorship troubles... something about a married couple doing all this makes it feel especially decandent.)

Annette Vadim was a little on the dull side but it's not fatal - that role (the Michelle Pfeiffer/Reese Witherspoon part) suits bland people, and she is definitely super beautiful. Jeanne Valerie is alright as the 16 year old Philippe seduces but Jean Louis Tringinant makes the most of the kind of worthless part of her secret lover.

There's some classy nudity - Annette Vadim likes naked on a couch (legs and arms folded to make it tame by today standards), Jeanne Valerie shows off her butt in bed. Vadim doesn't have much of a reputation these days but I thought this was a pretty good film; flowery in spots, yes, but effective.

No comments: