Comparisons may be odious, but here they are unavoidable. Valmont and Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons were both based on the same 18th century French novel, and shot at the same time; but the latter's phenomenal success quite eclipsed Forman's more lavish effort, and its British release was held back. The basic story is the same: the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont spin an intricate web of deception, using sex as a weapon and destroying lives for fun. But the claustrophobic interiors of Dangerous Liaisons are here replaced with horseback rides and landscaped gardens, beautifully shot by Miroslav Ondricek; and where the acid cynicism of Glenn Close and John Malkovich provided a clash of titans, Valmont gives us, in the youthful enthusiasm of Bening (too naive) and Firth (too nice), little more than a childish spat. It's a warm, energetic, humorous film, with some excellent ensemble playing; but the cruelty and psychological complexity are lost, and the ensuing tragedy has little resonance.
Cast and crew