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VALMONT: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
In 18th century France, the Vicomte de Valmont (Colin Firth), a cruel and calculating playboy, makes a malicious wager with the equally wicked widow Madame de Merteuil (Annette Bening): Valmont must seduce the prim (and married) Madame de Tourvel (Meg Tilly). If Valmont succeeds, he will earn himself the privilege of Merteuil's bed. But when Valmont sets about his insidious task, the unexpected happens... he falls in love with his prey! And now Madame de Merteuil, who never let on she really loved Valmont, will stop at nothing to destroy Valmont's newfound passion.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Milos Forman's 1989 telling of the famous story of a young 18th century French widow and her lover playing sex games amongst the aristocrats is breathtakingly cruel and splendidly wicked. Colin Firth plays Viscount Valmont and Annette Bening is his cruel yet tragic partner, the Marquise de Merteuil. Meg Tilly plays the ultimate prize, Madame de Tourvel. Yet, for all my admiration for Milos Forman's awesome list of cinematic achievements (eg One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, etc), I regard Stephen Frears' version of this work - made one year earlier and adapted by Christopher Hampton - the more haunting and powerful. But that's mostly because in that version, John Malkovich and Glenn Close make their characters even more bitingly, fearsomely awful and complex and ultimately tragic.

These elements are still in evidence throughout Forman's film, which looks ravishing but the unflattering comparison is inevitable, especially as the two films were made so close to each other. Forman's sense of dramatic highlighting is largely absent, and the film's pace often slows. Frears, on the other hand, injects dramatic and sexual tension into every scene.

One example of this flaw is the scene when Valmont tells Marquise de Merteuil she has lost her bet. She is having a modest bath in her chambers (wearing a white bath gown). The mood of this scene should be sharper and filled with layers of emotions, but it is fascinating largely for the bath and the strangely clunky performances of the two leads.

Frears' film was titled Dangerous Liaisons - and he stayed true to the dangerous bit. Forman's work is less dangerous, more playful and frilly - but it may well be the right version to let your maiden aunt borrow.

Published January 24, 2008

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

VALMONT: DVD (M)
(1989)

CAST: Colin Firth, Annette Bening, Meg Tilly, Fairuza Balk, Sian Phillips, Jeffrey Jones, Henry Thomas, Fabia Drake,

PRODUCER: Michael Hausman, Paul Rassam

DIRECTOR: Milos Forman

SCRIPT: Jean Claude Carriere, Milos Forman (novel by Choderlos de Laclos)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Miroslav Ondricek

EDITOR: Nena Danevic, Alan Heim

MUSIC: Christopher Palmer

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Pierre Guffroy

RUNNING TIME: 131 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2.35:1 widescreen; DD 2.0

SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

DVD RELEASE: November 7, 2007







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