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France/USA 1989
Directed by
Milos Forman
137 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


Valmont is an opulent but empty and overlong historical piece freely adapted from Les Liaisons Dangereuses, an 18th century novel about aristocratic sexual mores by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. What makes it particularly disappointing is that it is from a director of Milos Forman's skill, his Oscar-winning period piece Amadeus,1984 seeming to offer a guarantee of success in this instance.

The film is poorly cast with the quintessentially British Colin Firth, and Americans Annette Bening and Meg Tilley (who was originally cast as Mozart's wife in Amadeus, but had to leave after tearing a ligament in her leg) completely out-of-synch with the time and place, leaving the film singularly bereft of a credible historical similitude. The film is also weighed down by a bland script by Jean-Claude Carriere, another seasoned veteran of art cinema and one who should have known better, that only manages to render a saccharine Mills & Boons version of the French literary classic.

Although it went into production first, the film also had the misfortune to arrive on the heels of the winningly acerbic Stephen Frears rendition, Dangerous Liaisons (1988), with Glenn Close, Michele Pfeiffer and John Malkovich and a screenplay by Christopher Hampton from his hit stage version of the original novel that concentrated on the predatory nature of the protagonists and less on fine costumes and sets (Forman's had a budget of $35m, Frears' $15m, ample evidence that money can't buy happpiness).




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