It’s time for a classic adaptation of an even more classic book,
Find it on: Amazon
What it is:
An adaptation of an 18th-century epistolary novel by Choderlos de Laclos. It tells a story of the corrupt aristocratic elite and their immoral sexual lives. It focuses on the corruptest of the corrupt: Madame Merteuil and viscount de Valmont, who run the game – until they don’t. The movie was made in 1988 and stars pretty much only stars, including Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, young Uma Thurman and very young Keanu Reeves – all of them outshined by John Malkovich as Valmont.
How I found it:
Well, it’s one of the classics. You don’t really have to look for those. The first time I saw it, probably in high school, it was on TV. This time I watched it after Cruel Intentions to compare the two movies.
It’s one of my favorite adaptations, managing not to ruin the book – which is great – at all.
Best things about it:
It captures the book perfectly, even managing to manoeuver around its epistolarity, which is never a good thing for a movie. The movie looks great, with the costumes and the interiors building the lavish, outlandish world of the 18th-century French aristocracy. The actors, unsurprisingly, deliver amazing performances, managing to be both dramatic and funny, when needed.
Malkovich deserves an entirely separate paragraph in this. When I watched the movie for the first time, he surprised me with his sex appeal, despite his looks. But this time I was more impressed with how sinister he is and how every sentence he says reminds the viewer that Valmont is acting all the time: all his lines are declamations.
Worst things about it:
That is hardly the movie’s fault but it’s very difficult to root for any of the protagonists. This is only an actual problem with Pfeiffer, whose character starts as an irritating prig and ends as an irritating doormat, while she should make us feel sorry for her.
✤ Glenn Close. Malkovich gets perhaps a more showy part and manages to steal the show sometimes but they play off each other beautifully. The Marquise impersonates hypocrisy and deception but still remains a human being, even with a thin layer of feminism somewhere there. Her failure at the end (spoiler?) does not feel entirely triumphant for the viewer.
✤ Keanu Reeves. He comes as close as the movie has to a likeable character, even if he remains in the background.
The ending leaves a bit to desire, with the somewhat heavy-handed montage and Valmont’s theatrical death (spoiler?).
How it enriched my life:
This is undoubtedly where great cinema meets viewers’ actual enjoyment and there are way too few such movies.
Is it possible to watch this story or read the book and not wonder how many characters had syphilis? I’m betting all of them.
I will probably re-watch it but now I feel I should return to my snaily read of the book in French, which I started a few years ago and then dropped because life.
People who like period dramas and large décolletages. Fans of the original. Lovers of Rococo. Cynics with ideals still there at the bottom of their hearts.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Next time: Cruel Intentions