Another week, another movie for me to gush about. This one…wow. Alright. Backstory time: I am obsessed with Colin Firth. And it’s not even strictly a Pride and Prejudice thing, though that’s great too. I saw Mamma Mia 2 five times just to stare at him for a total eight minutes, or whatever. My love is intense. I also have an intense love for the movie Cruel Intentions, and therefore when I discovered that Colin Firth had starred in a movie in the 80s that was based on the same novel as Cruel Intentions, I knew I had to have it. Getting it was another story. It wasn’t streaming anywhere, and I ended up buying the DVD from eBay–but it was worth it.
Let’s break it down. Valmont is a period piece based on the book Les Liaisons Dangereuse (aka Dangerous Liaisons) which also inspired Cruel Intentions, though obviously that’s a contemporary setting.
The complex moral ambiguities of seduction and revenge make Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) one of the most scandalous and controversial novels in European literature. Its prime movers, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil–gifted, wealthy, and bored–form an unholy alliance and turn seduction into a game. And they play this game with such wit and style that it is impossible not to admire them, until they discover mysterious rules that they cannot understand. In the ensuing battle there can be no winners, and the innocent suffer with the guilty. This new translation gives Laclos a modern voice, and readers will be able to judge whether the novel is as “diabolical” and “infamous” as its critics have claimed, or whether it has much to tell us about a world we still inhabit.
Because this is an older book, I prefer the Oxford World Classics edition. There’s also a free (as of February 2020) audible original of the play that you can check out. I had loved Cruel Intentions and the ideas in Dangerous Liaisons, but I didn’t read the book until January 2020 and I absolutely fell in love. I read that book with a highlighter, and I chuckled, and it was intense and I loved it. Seriously, it was right in my wheelhouse. It’s written in letters, which is amazing tbh and so rare these days, and it compels you forward and the writing is spectacular. Each character’s voice is so unique and the way they describe their emotions made me want to highlight the entire book. I mean yes, the morals are weird and also very modern while being old school, but I freaking loved it.
Onto Valmont (aka Colin Firth’s character and the Ryan Philippe character in Cruel Intentions)
Isn’t it just gorgeous? Colin Firth, Annette Benning, I was sold. The costuming was spectacular. The period-ness of it all blew me away, and it really captured the sass and sensuality of the novel, and I remember being absolutely CAPTIVATED while watching it. I really want to write a genderbent retelling of this book, and while I probably won’t make it period, though this beautiful beautiful movie really makes me wish I had that skillset. The director was Milos Forman, so you know this movie DELIVERS. It also was nominated for an Oscar in Costume Design, so you know I enjoyed that aspect. Also, young Colin Firth can TAKE IT ALL.
On a more serious note though, it’s a GOOD movie and you’ll enjoy it even if you haven’t read the book,though reading the book is an amazing experience in its own right.