Valmont

Director: Milos Forman
Year Released: 1989
Rating: 2.5

Overlong costume drama (heavy on the fabric, light on everything else) based on that oft-filmed French novel Dangerous Liaisons about the sexual mores of the 1800s French society, how they were broken, and what the consequences were for "unacceptable" behavior. It also gives a taste of what society was like then - it was a time when duels were waged to protect honor, and attributes such as "courageous" and "cowardice" were taken quite seriously. Director Milos Forman's film centers on the "lecherous" Monsieur de Valmont (Colin Firth) and his fatal collaboration with Annette Bening's character, who is Machiavellian and proud of it. My problem with the film is not so much with the performances - which are decent (although newcomer Fairuza Balk gets a little out-of-hand at times with her constant blushing and eyes-to-the-floor innocence) - but with Forman's handling of the material. He doesn't quite to convey - how do I say this - the naughtiness of the proceedings; the treatment is whimsical and lazy. The film has no edge, no spunk - Stephen Frears' version years earlier (with the unholy alliance of Glenn Close and John Malkovich), despite dealing with older actors and jiggling the plot slightly, was so much more cutting and sleazy. Frears' version is not without its faults, mind you, but decadence should be treated as decadence. In Valmont, immorality has never been so irrelevant.