Valmont Short Review (1989)
The OTHER film version that was released at the end of the 80s that featured Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil among the others. It’s hard not to compare the two since they were released so close together and both were very well done. I liked “Dangerous Liaisons”, also (giving it 4.5 of 5), but I think this is the better version. This is both more subtle than that one and there is more imagination in the way the scenes are handled. There are slight differences in the plot developments in this one, but maybe the biggest difference lies in the casting.
Valmont’s characters are much less cartoonish, seeming more like real people. The casting of Fairuza Balk at such a young age highlights the outrageousness of the conspirators in the film all the more. Still, Firth manages to keep Valmont from appearing to be the villain that Malkovich is at times in ‘Liaisons’. He seems to have a moral center (even with all of the dubious behavior) that seemed mostly absent in Malkovich’s take on the character.
Annette Benning is not nearly as cold as Glenn Close as the Marquise de Merteuil. The way her character runs about or makes her point (as in the ‘bathtub/rejection of Valmont’ scene) is much more entertaining and lively than in the other version. Benning’s character is easily more vital and fetching than the character Close plays. Where Close and Malkovich declare their intentions in terse monologues, director Milos Foreman uses good old storytelling to get the true intentions across. There is far more choeography of action here.
Where ‘Liaisons’ is a full blown Hollywood mainstream production: big, beautiful, lavish and loud; Valmont is witty and clever. Where DL’s point is to shame the villainess, this one, like many of Foreman’s past films, seeks to embrace the rebel nature of its title character.
This is every bit as beautiful to look at as Dangerous Liasons. I think the changes in story and theme are for the better, too. This film has a little more to say. It’s a great film 5 stars and is on par with Foreman’s other classic films (Amadeus or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for example). This is one of the better films of the 80s and made both my Best of 1989 and my 100 Best of The 1980s.