|Directed by||Stephen Frears|
|Produced by||Norma Heyman
|Written by||Christopher Hampton|
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Editing by||Mick Audsley|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||119 minutes|
|Box office||$34.7 million (USA)|
Dangerous Liaisons is a 1988 drama film based upon Christopher Hampton's play Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which in turn was a theatrical adaptation of the 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.
The film was directed by Stephen Frears. The performances of Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer, the cinematography of Philippe Rousselot, the costume design by James Acheson, and the screenplay by Christopher Hampton, garnered critical acclaim. Swoosie Kurtz and Mildred Natwick appeared in supporting roles, as did young relatively unknown actors Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman.
The Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) appears to be virtuous and upstanding but is, in fact, a sexually ravenous, amoral schemer who plays games with men out of bitterness at the constricted station of women in her society. She decides to exact revenge on a recent lover by having his young new fiancée, Cécile de Volanges (Uma Thurman), the daughter of Merteuil's cousin Madame de Volanges (Swoosie Kurtz), seduced and ruined. Merteuil calls on her sometime partner, the rakish and similarly amoral Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich), to do the deed. At first, Valmont refuses her proposition; he is busy trying to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is spending time at his aunt's manor house while her husband is abroad.
Upon discovering that the uptight and superficial Madame de Volanges had been secretly writing to Madame de Tourvel to warn her against his evil nature, Valmont changes his mind and decides to follow Merteuil's scheme. They take advantage of the fact that young Cécile is secretly in love with her music teacher, the Chevalier Raphael Danceny (Keanu Reeves), who is poor and therefore does not qualify in the eyes of her mother as a potential suitor.
At his aunt's manor, Valmont tricks Cécile into providing access to her bedchamber so that he can deliver Danceny's love letters unobserved, but instead shows up and rapes her as she pleads with him to leave. Over breakfast the next morning, he taunts a visibly distressed Cécile, and she runs from the room in tears. Later that night, he attempts to enter her room again, but she has barred her door and is seen sobbing within her chamber. Madame de Volanges, distraught by her daughter's sudden state of illness, calls upon Merteuil to speak to Cécile. Merteuil advises Cécile to consensually continue an affair with Valmont, telling her she should take advantage of all the lovers she can acquire in a life so constricted by her gender. Cécile takes her advice and later becomes pregnant with Valmont's child, but suffers a miscarriage, thus avoiding a scandal.
Valmont meanwhile steadily targets his main prey, Madame de Tourvel, who, despite suspecting his base motives, eventually gives in to his tireless advances. However, Valmont, the lifelong womanizer, has unexpectedly fallen in love with Tourvel.
Merteuil had promised Valmont a night in her company should he be successful in his scheme to seduce Madame de Tourvel and provide written proof of his conquest. Nevertheless, secretly jealous of Tourvel, she refuses to grant Valmont his prize unless he breaks off with Tourvel completely; Merteuil threatens to ruin his proud reputation as a debaucher. Valmont, his ego damaged, heeds her request and coldly leaves Tourvel, who falls desperately ill. Valmont goes back to Merteuil, who in the meantime has taken Chevalier Danceny as her lover. Valmont arranges for Danceny to leave Merteuil for Cecile, which leads to him once again demanding the immediate fulfillment of her promise. The Marquise refuses, and they declare war.
The Marquise reveals to Danceny that Valmont had seduced Cécile. Danceny challenges Valmont to a duel. Guilty and despairing, Valmont allows Danceny to fatally wound him. Before he dies, he asks Danceny to visit Tourvel and assure her of his true love; Valmont also hands him a collection of letters from Merteuil that detail her scheming. After hearing Valmont's message from Danceny, Madame de Tourvel dies. Danceny publishes Merteuil's letters, which become a scandal, and she is booed and disgraced by the audience at the opera. The movie closes as she suffers a breakdown while removing her make-up.
- Glenn Close as Marquise de Merteuil: a member of the French nobility, the Marquise has been forced to comply with the social rules of her gender at that time. Strong-willed and ambitious, she has grown spiteful from consistently being forced to "keep quiet and do as told" by the male gender, and so she has made it her business to do whatever she could to dominate the male gender, and avenge her own. manipulative and immoral woman, who uses her beauty and extraordinary intelligence to both maintain her position on the French social hierarchy, but also to avenge herself on anyone who has wronged her in the past. Her malevolent, libertine nature, however, is kept well hidden from most people, as she created a façade of moral righteousness which makes her look as a virtuous and puritan woman to almost everyone in her entourage.
- John Malkovich as Vicomte de Valmont: an arrogant, suave and extremely manipulative sexual predator, the Vicomte takes advantage of the social limitations of the female gender at the time to benefit himself as much as possible. Cynical, compelling, charismatic and powerful, the Vicomte uses his position to get anything (or anyone) he wants. As he begins genuinely to fall in love with Madame de Tourvel, a softer, more caring side of him is revealed. However, the Marquise de Merteuil's tight grip over him causes him to abandon that small inkling of morality and betray the one woman he loved, eventually leading to his demise.
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame de Tourvel
- Swoosie Kurtz as Madame de Volanges
- Keanu Reeves as Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny
- Mildred Natwick as Madame de Rosemonde
- Uma Thurman as Cécile de Volanges
- Peter Capaldi as Azolan
Dangerous Liaisons was the first English-language film adaptation of Laclos's novel, and was based on Christopher Hampton's Olivier Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated theatrical adaptation for the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Howard Davies and featuring Lindsay Duncan, Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson.
The film was shot entirely on location in France, specifically in the région of Île-de-France, and featured historical buildings such as the Château de Vincennes in Val-de-Marne, the Château de Champs-sur-Marne, the Château de Guermantes in Seine-et-Marne, the Château du Saussay in Essonne, and the Théâtre Montansier in Versailles.
The original score was written by George Fenton, while the soundtrack included baroque and classical works by Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Christoph Willibald Gluck.
Pauline Kael in The New Yorker described it as "heaven – alive in a way that movies rarely are." Hal Hinson in the Washington Post wrote that the film's "wit and immediacy is extraordinarily rare in a period film. Instead of making the action seem far off, the filmmakers put the audience in the room with their characters." Roger Ebert called it "an absorbing and seductive movie." Variety considered it an "incisive study of sex as an arena for manipulative power games." Vincent Canby in The New York Times hailed it as a "kind of lethal drawing-room comedy."
Christopher Hampton received critical acclaim for his screenplay, with Time Out writing that "one of the film's enormous strengths is scriptwriter Christopher Hampton's decision to go back to the novel, and save only the best from his play." James Acheson and Stuart Craig were also praised for their work, with Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times stating that "the film's details of costuming (by The Last Emperor's James Acheson) and production design (by Stuart Craig of Gandhi and The Mission) are ravishing." All three would go on to win Academy Awards for their work on this film.
Glenn Close received considerable praise for her performance; she was lauded by The New York Times for her "richness and comic delicacy," while Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that, once she "finally lets loose and gives way to complete animal despair, Close is horrifying." Roger Ebert thought the two lead roles were "played to perfection by Close and Malkovich... their arch dialogues together turn into exhausting conversational games, tennis matches of the soul."
Michelle Pfeiffer was also widely acclaimed for her portrayal, despite playing, in the opinion of the Washington Post, "the least obvious and the most difficult" role. "Nothing is harder to play than virtue, and Pfeiffer is smart enough not to try. Instead, she embodies it." The New York Times called her performance a "happy surprise." Roger Ebert, considering the trajectory of her career, wrote that "in a year that has seen her in varied assignments such as Married to the Mob and Tequila Sunrise, the movie is more evidence of her versatility. She is good when she is innocent and superb when she is guilty." Pfeiffer would later win a British Academy Film Award for her performance.
The casting of John Malkovich proved to be a controversial decision that divided critics. The New York Times, while admitting there was the "shock of seeing him in powdered wigs", concluded that he was "unexpectedly fine. The intelligence and strength of the actor shape the audience's response to him." The Washington Post was similarly impressed with Malkovich's performance: "There's a sublime perversity in Frears' casting, especially that of Malkovich... [he] brings a fascinating dimension to his character that would be missing with a more conventionally handsome leading man." Variety was less impressed, stating that while the "sly actor conveys the character's snaky, premeditated Don Juanism... he lacks the devilish charm and seductiveness one senses Valmont would need to carry off all his conquests."
Awards and nominations 
At the 61st Academy Awards, Dangerous Liaisons won three Oscars out of seven nominations, for Best Adapted Screenplay (Christopher Hampton), Best Costume Design (James Acheson), and Best Art Direction (Stuart Craig and Gérard James). Its four unsuccessful nominations were for Best Actress (Glenn Close), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer), Best Original Score (George Fenton), and the Academy Award for Best Picture. Director Stephen Frears and lead actor John Malkovich were not nominated.
At the 43rd British Academy Film Awards, Michelle Pfeiffer won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Christopher Hampton won for Best Screenplay. The film received a further eight nominations, in the categories of Best Direction (Stephen Frears), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Close), Best Cinematography (Philippe Rousselot), Best Costume Design (Acheson), Best Original Film Score (Fenton), Best Editing (Mick Audsley), Best Make Up Artist (Jean-Luc Russier) and Best Production Design (Craig).
In addition to his Oscar and BAFTA awards, Christopher Hampton also won the London Critics Circle Film Award for Screenwriter of the Year, and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Stephen Frears won the César Award for Best Foreign Film and Best Director from the Boston Society of Film Critics. The film was second only to Mississippi Burning in the National Board of Review's Top 10 films.
Related adaptations 
Three decades before Dangerous Liaisons, Roger Vadim adapted the Laclos novel into Les Liaisons dangereuses, a French film starring Jeanne Moreau, Gérard Philipe and Annette Vadim. Less than a year after Dangerous Liaisons was released, Miloš Forman adapted the novel into Valmont, starring Colin Firth in the title role, Annette Bening, and Meg Tilly.
In 1999, Roger Kumble adapted the novel into Cruel Intentions, a drama set in a modern high school, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Philippe and Reese Witherspoon. In 2003, Untold Scandal, a South Korean adaptation, was released; it was set in the same time as the original novel, but in the Kingdom of Joseon.
Almost 25 years after he played Valmont, John Malkovich directed a French-language version of Christopher Hampton's play in Paris, which ran at the Théâtre de l'Atelier. In December 2012, the production is being brought to Lansburgh Theatre by the Shakespeare Theatre Company for a limited run in Washington D.C..
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