June 23, 2014

Valmont vs Dangerous Liaisons

Milos Forman’s film Valmont came out in 1989, the year after Steven Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons. Both are based on Chloderos Laclos' scandalous 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Both feature rich and bored aristocrats and are set in Baroque France prior to the guillotine.

A scheming widow, the Marquise de Merteuil, and her sometimes-lover Valmont make a bet regarding the corruption of a recently married and very pious woman. Valmont wagers that he can seduce the newlywed, even though she is very honourable. If he wins, the Marquise promises him one last night with her. However, in the process of seducing the married woman, Valmont falls in love.

I prefer Valmont to Dangerous Liaisons. Colin Firth as Valmont does the "wet puffy shirt" before Mr. Darcy strips off in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice. Firth is passion and charisma to John Malkovich’s reptilian cold-bloodedness. I know who I’d rather snog with.

This was the first role I saw Annette Bening play. She’s ripe, peachy and pretty and looks too nice to play Madame Merteuil but she’s just as evil as Glenn Close.

Pretty Meg Tilly played the pious Madame de Tourvel. Well and truly seduced, Firth moved to the forests of Canada to be with her.

Here’s a list of the major players in Valmont and their equals in Dangerous Liaisons.

Colin Firth – John Malkovich
Annette Bening – Glenn Close
Meg Tilly – Michelle Pfeiffer
Fairuza Balk – Uma Thurman
Henry Thomas ( Elliot from ET) - Keanu Reeves.

And the 1989 trailer.


Kat Mortensen said...

I've seen them both (Valmont, many times) and I'll take Firth over Malkovich any day of the week! Milos Forman's direction is stellar and there is so much humour and giddiness in Valmont. It's a feast for the senses and talk about titillating! the scene with Annette Bening in the bath is fabulous! Makes me want to go out and buy the film just to watch it again now.


Kat Mortensen said...

P.S. I first saw Bening in "The Grifters"...that is a great movie as well(much different, however).


Kat Mortensen said...

Just one more thing; I thought Fairuza Balk did a much better job of playing the ingenue, didn't you?

It really is SO good! Well, of course, after "Amadeus", Forman had to try and maintain his appeal.


dogimo said...

Oh, my goodness. I can't get over that trailer.

Were they still doing trailers like that then?

It just seems so strange.

But you can see the film glimmering underneath all the narration and goofily too-jaunty music! Thank you for the recommend, and reminder that I'd wanted then to see this. I miss so many films in the theater and never come back around to them like it seems it would be so easy to do.

California Girl said...

That was an interesting piece. I saw "Dangerous Liasons" but have never seen "Valmont". I did not like the first one much; I was irritated by the loathsome bored aristocrats and John Malkovich creeps me out in everything he does.

Colin Firth is an extremely likeable actor and I can't imagine him playing against type so I'm thinking his depiction would be more appealing if such a character can be appealing

Question: when you write about Firth & Meg Tilly, did you mean they ran off together in real life? I'd not heard that either and I've always wondered what happened to Meg Tilly. Her sister is such a scream and, apparently, one hell of a poker player.

The Clever Pup said...

Poetikat - yes! I thought all the parts were cast better. Fairuza Balk was completely believable.

Dogimo - I could hardly believe the trailer either. The beginning, anyway. Is that what we were doing 20 years ago.

CG - Yes Tilly and Firth were a couple for a while - they have a son Will. She writes, has troubling personal issues and her own blog.

Unknown said...

Looks sexy!

Sandra Leigh said...

I can't believe I've never seen this film, Firthfanatic that I am. Doesn't Meg Tilly look as if she emerged from under a leaf? Pure wood nymph.

Unknown said...

My favorite is the french made for TV version which takes place in the late 50's - early 60's, with Catherine Deneuve as Madame Merteuil and Rupert Everett as Valmont. They were both so evil! Anyone who loves this story should be sure not to miss this. The great cast also features Nastassia Kinski as Madame Tourvel, and Leelee Sobieski as Cecile Volanges.

The soundtracks to this film have also been interesting. Jazz great Art Blakey did the older black and white version. The french TV version also had a very good, eerie soundtrack. Was it Badalamenti or Morricione?



Jelica said...

I've never heard of this film but I'd take Colin Firth over John Malkovich any time so will have to check this one out. Thanks!

California Girl said...

I will have to find the French version David Engel references. I love Catherine Deneuve and Rupert Everett. Interestingly enough, when I researched the Colin Firth/meg Tilly angle, I read that Firth and Everett have a not so friendly rivalry as actors. It was not explained but another bit of coincidence.

I hope I can find the French version in Netflix.

Tess Kincaid said...

I love the work of Milos Foreman and can't believe I've not seen Valmont. I'm adding it to my Netflix queue right now. Thanks for the recommendation, Hazel.

Regarding your comment on my blog, your comments are always read and very much appreciated. Your delightful blog is one of my faves! :^)

tony said...

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Giulia said...

Have seen both but unaccountably have not seen Valmont in the past few years (I like the novel & play). So along with willow, I just put it in Netflix queue. I didn't find the French version referenced above but still looking elsewhere.

Thanks for this!


Something's Dishy said...

I prefer Dangerous Liasons over Valmont. Though I also like Colin Firth, in this one however, the winner is Malkovich. His acting is amazing and perfect!

Motivational Poems said...

Yeah great film!

Short Poems

Cat W said...

Well, interesting comments by all..... I have seen all three versions, the Rupert Everett, the Colin Firth and the John Malcovich. What I would say is that as this is a story that has sex at its core, then Valmont surely needs to be physically attractive - especially as he is so emotionally unattractive. My fave is the Rupert Everett version which is closely followed by Colin Firth. John Malcovich although an amazing actor just isn't pretty enough, and the rest of the cast were a bit too 'Hollywood' to provide enough edge. That said, what a story!

The Rush Blog said...

From what I have read, a lot of people seemed to dismissing the 1988 film, due to their belief that Malkovich isn't attractive. That's it?

For my money, I'd take "DANGEROUS LIAISONS" over "VALMONT" any day. I'm sorry, but Forman's movie simply lacks bite.

The Clever Pup said...

chacun à son goût, oui?

Robert said...

Dangerous Liaisons (1988), is infinitely better, best actors, costumes, adaptation.
A great movie....

Anonymous said...

I like both movies equally for different reasons.

Overall Valmont has a more whimsical quality to its manipulations.

I prefer Thurman to the younger girl in Valmont (she's more of a woman), Tilly to Pfieffer (I just like her portrayal more), and Benning to Close, and its a close call.

Weird, I only recently realized they were the same story - but when I did, I felt stupid!

Unknown said...

Both films attempt a realistic portrayal of baroque pre-napoleonic France based on a famous novel. Dangerously edges out on all aspects, set design, costumes, direction and acting by the main cast (except Keanu) but especially true in the main character of Valmont played by John Malkovich and Colin Firth. The character Valmont is a detestable and undermining womanizer who meets his match in the face of true love. Malkovich's cold and cunning characterization beats out Firth's warm and bumbling portrayal any day of the week. The later (firth) is perhaps more fun to watch being far less reviled but more unlike the true character of Valmont.

The imdb and rotten tomatoes comments and ratings are always a true evaluation of a film when taken together ,not apart and given ample time after a film is released. Both films are equal on imdb while Dangerously edges out Valmont 93 to 90 percent on tomatoes. Pretty accurate consensus if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

I think the essential difference between Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont was this:

The characters of Valmont and Merteuil are liars. Now, how does an actor play a liar?

Frears directed Malkovich and Close to deliver the lines where the characters are lying with an arch irony, and the score by George Fenton ominously rumbles menacingly in the background to each scene, in order to clue the audience in that the characters are being deceitful. The audience is always in on the scheming of Valmont and Merteuil and is never in any doubt as to their level of sincerity.

Forman directs Firth and Benning to play the scenes in which Valmont and Merteuil are lying with the same level of intensity as the scenes in which these characters are telling the truth, and he often has no musical underscore at all for these scenes - so it’s possible that the audience (if they haven’t read the book) might be taken off guard along with the other characters.

My first impression of “Dangerous Liaisons” was that the supporting cast were complete idiots for being taken in by Close and Malkovich given how OBVIOUSLY evil these two came across onscreen... whereas it was much more plausible that the supporting cast of “Valmont” would be taken in by the outwardly charming Firth and Benning, who were much more subtly insidious in their manipulations.

DannyJane said...

I can't agree that Valmont was better. Not one of the actors had a bit of the charisma of Dangerous Liaisons. It was Malkovitch's very reptilian look and borderline psycho emotionlessness that make his falling for Michelle Pfeiffer's etherial Madame Marie de Tourvel so much richer than vapid Colin Firth and horribly unattractive Meg Tilly (what DID anybody see in her throughout the 80s?) Plus the lush 18th century settings and costumers were far better than Valmont's high school drama club look. The acting in DL was far better overall with a classier cast and apparently a much bigger budget.