1 March 1989

Filmnews: Dangerous Liaisons

(USA 1988; dist Warner Bros; rt 140mins)


Dangerous Liaisons is one at those Hollywood productions where blinding excellence is the order of the day. The film is loosely based on characters from Choderlos de Laclos' erotic novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses and is the latest big screen effort from Stephen Frears. Some details: the film charts the manners and morals of a number of decadent nobles and ascendant bourgeoisie in the years running up to the French revolution in 1789. Look to the tabloids for plot details but suffice to say that this film in representing late 18th century European mores and culture produces a telling portrait of the late 20th century. Headed by a sumptuously evil Glenn Close, with John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer sharing honours, all players perform with relish and aplomb. They are aided by Christopher Hampton's lively and engaging adaption of his own play, originally written for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984. Frears directs with a rare grace and flair. His images offer the avid pundit of mise en scene criticism ample opportunity to run amok with psychological, political and social connections and associations. Having been studiously indifferent to his previous efforts I was surprised to find this film possessing everything I ask from a work of art - style, wit, intelfigence. beauty, dexterity, contemporaneity, poignancy, humor, humility, and tragedy. Plus an optional extra -sex. In fact the most crucial element of the text is the deft handle it has on the worksites of love and sex - along with the demarcation disputes which arise as a result of clumsy arbitration. No, Dangerous Liaisons isn't the sort of film that drives me to find fault or squabble over trivialities. Call me a jerk but some of these Hollywood films are put together so well that I suspend criticism and just let them wash over me. And so it was with this film, so willingiy did I yield to its charms and pleasures Deep down I know that you, too, will yield. Be not afraid -- you too will be rewarded.

Filmnews (Sydney, NSW : 1975 - 1995), Wednesday 1 March 1989, page 13