Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Friday, April 08, 2005

J. Hoberman

The performances take some getting used to: Although the protagonists seem very American, the plebes speak with British accents. Malkovich has the best enunciation as well as the zippiest lines. "You should organize an infidelity, with me, for example," he tells Close, who, for the second film in a row, has to babe herself up as the hottest of femme fatales. (Her secret is a sort of dreamy narcissism--touching herself, Merteuil all but creams out of her gown.) . . . .

Shot mainly in close-ups, camera lingering on the principles' secret leer of triumph, Dangerous Liaisons is very much a landscape of faces . . . . Although Close arranges her expressions as carefully as her hairdo, the movie is, in the end, mainly motivated by Malkovich's seductive performance . . . .

J. Hoberman
Village Voice, December 27, 1988
left out little at end?

Pauline Kael

“…. Frears . . . and . . . Hampton . . . keep us so close to these people that we can examine their lace and their wigs and their skins. . . . The success of the movie is that . . . it gets you to feel the emotions under the clever, petty claculations. (It's like uncovering the carnal roots of chess.) By the end, the artificiality has dissolved and something forceful and shocking has taken over.

All along, you see the duplicitiousness under the Marquise's wholesome, open-faced, pink-and-creamy exterior. That's what gives the material its comic austerity: you see what's under her farm-fresh smile, you know the heart that beats under her charmingly freckled bosom . . . [S]he looks as "natural" as a Fragonard. But she's playacting when she makes herself the sympathetic confidante of the conventional-minded ladies of her circle; she feels utter contempt for them, and she twists and turns them to her purposes. . . .

There are times when the Marquise--a happy widow--sounds much like a modern, "liberated" woman. This is basically faithful to Laclos, who reads like a feminist if you don't pick up the nuances . . . . In both novel and movie, the Marquise is liberated to lie and scheme, and her primary motive is vicious, vengeful jealousy. . . . When [Valmont] describes his ecstasy in bed with Mme. de Tourvel, the Marquise recognizes that he's in love, and the color drains from her face; whe's a victim of her feelings, like the men and women she despises for their weakness. She's enraged; she feels left out.

The Marquise is actually the opposite of liberated: she is one of the most formidable examples of hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned in all literature. Childless, of course, she's woman the destroyer, and despite her reserve and her control, and her superficial rationality, she pulls the lowest kind of "feminine" treachery: she cancels the game she has going with Valmont after he has won, and pins the blame on him. She's a power-hungry, castrating female as conceived by an eighteenth-century male writer. She's also a great character, in the way that Richard III is great. She's polished in her savagery, and the straight-backed Glenn Close, looking matriarchal and pure (even her teeth are perfect), gives a smooth performance that is by far her best work onscreen. She may lack the ravaged intensity that Jeanne Moreau brought to the role in the 1959 modern-dress version by Roger Vadim, and she's rather bland (though less so in the second half), but she has terrific bearing, and her arch Marquise, with her immaculate simulation of propriety, provides a balance to Malkovich's outre [accent gr.] Valmont.

. . . . [T]he scenes between the Marquise and Valmont miss out on sensual excitement; you don't feel an electrical current crackling between them. But the casting is still strong. (It's clear that the Marquise has poisoned her capacity to love, and that she has no means left to express her feelings for Valmont except by destroying him, the woman he cares for, and herself.) This is a first-rate piece of work by a director who's daring and agile. . . .

Pauline Kael
Movie Love, pp 57-62

David Ansen

. . . . Frears closes in on the characters. Using enormous close-ups, so that we become intimate with every treacherous mask his deceivers assume, Frears compresses the power of the pice into savage portraiture. Though it is beautifully shot by Philippe Rousselot amidst sumptuous formal settings, Frears wisely keeps the emphasis on psychology, not scenery. Doubtless his strategy was conditioned by budget limitations . . ., but he has turned necessity into inspired invention. . . .

Close is chilling, a formidable, cunning puppeteer. Malice, as "Fatal Attraction" showed, brings out the best in her. (She should be banned from playing any more warm and noble women: her patronizing sweetness in the TV movie "Stones for Ibarra" was quite indigestible.) Here, in a performance of controlled venom and deeply hidden pathos, she's superb. . . .

David Ansen
Newsweek, December 26, 1988
[verify LO at end of review]

Stephen Farber

To my mind the greatest actresses have all made an indelible impression playing villainesses. Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Angela Lansbury all relished their excursions into evil. Glenn Close is one of the only working actresses who has the potential to join the pantheon. In Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons she had the quality--the same quality that Davis and Stanwyck had--of making nice girls disappear. A great villain is always seductive. In Fatal Attraction a part of you couldn't help rooting for Close's sexy, diabolical Alex Forrest . . .

Actresses who are willing to plunge into the heart of darkness usually have a strength and daring that enliven all of their performances. The same commanding authority that distinguishes Close's sinister characters is also on exhibit when she plays more sympathetic roles--in Jagged Edge or The World According to Garp or the TV movie Sarah, Plain and Tall. But by now, Close has shown an ability to play just about anything. Her only problem is the same one that has affected all American actresses as they approach 50: no one writes multidimensional vehicles for middle-aged women. . . . Now it's good to have her back on-screen in Disney's 101 Dalmations. We can only hope that her return to wickedness will mark the start of a new cycle of cinematic triumphs.

Stephen Farber
"Who's the Greatest Actress in Hollywood?", Movieline, November, 1996

David Denby

Once devoted lovers and now constant confidants, the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) sport with the young and innocent. They do it for pleasure and, most of all, for power--especially power over each other (they respect no one else). . . .

. . . . When Valmont and the marquise confide their nasty schemes to each other, they often seem arch and movieish, perhaps because these two are the originals of all those vicious couples in glossy old Hollywood pictures, couples who were rotten and corrupt and therefore belonged together. But Madame de Tourvel--ardent, sincere, inflexible--is ruined by seduction, and when Pfeiffer takes the screen, the movie is at its most moving.

I suppose the marquise and Valmont deserve the gillotine that is about to fall. But reviewers who call them "decadent" are missing Laclos's point (Hampton's too). Bursting with plans and stratagems, inexhaustibly productive of lies, feints, and impostures, they are heroically energetic scoundrels who possess skills almost military and diplomatic in scale. Surely neither Laclos nor Hampton . . . intends us to reject them utterly. Most people, after all, want as much love, praise, and power as they can get; the vicomte and the marquise are among the few human beings in histroy privileged enough to fulfill those demands day after day. They are both like us and not like us, both human and inhuman, monsters of vanity who, at the same time, are susceptible to more feeling than they know. . . .

Like deep-sea creatures emerging from underwater grottoes, the two predators rise from silken beds at the beginning of the movie and, in matching sequences neatly cut together, allow their servants to dress them for the day. . . .

Glenn Close has the most complex part: The marquise is a fearless and intelligent woman who has somehow convinced herself that her cruelties avenge the wrongs done her sex. A terrible egotist, she loves Valmont because the heartless rogue is still a slave to her charms. God knows, Close is incisive and forceful, but Frears, in his only serious mistake, bores in on her too much, and the tihgt, "revealing" close-ups--ah, now the villainess gives herself away!--are as corny as the same kind of shots were in silent movies 60 years ago. Viewed so close, this actress is generally too sinister and calculating. But I admit she has a great moment at the end. That early dressing sequence, a methodical assembling of illusion, is matched, at the film's conclusion, after Valmont and the marquise have caused much suffering, by a parallel sequence of dis-illusionment. A ruined Marquise de Merteuil removes her wig, rubs away her powder, and suddenly looks old, almost ghostly. Stripped of her social mask, weakened, mortified, the marquise could be a failed actress resolved never to take to the boards again.

David Denby
New York, January 9, 1989

Stanley Kauffmann

Aristocrats are troublesome in a film. If the piece is going to work properly, they have somehow to cow us a bit, to make us feel a little inferior and jealous. One reliable way to ahndle the problem is to use English actors with upper-class accents--the Leslie Howard--C. Aubrey Smith route. But this method is tossed aside by the makers of Dangerous Liaisons. All the principal roles are cast with Americans, and not even for box-office pull--none of these actors is bankable. [not even Close fresh off Fatal Attraction?] Whatever the reason, the actors sound (apart from what they actually say) like people we might know. Which is not quite the point of the enterprise.

. . . . The whole being of this 18th-century piece depends on our conviction that its sexual intrigues are the work of people condemned, by their exalted social station, to lives of self-indulgence and diversion, people who believe that the world was organized to put and keep them in their station. That conviction is missing here.

The member of the cast hwo does best, in this regard, is Mildred Natwick . . . .

Merteuil, Valmont's diabolic co-conspirator, is played by Glenn Close--intelligent, comprehending, acutely modulated. Close does particularly well with the long speeches in which she relates her resolution to get all possible satisfaction from her socially restricted position as a woman. And, after Natwick, Close comes nearest to credibility as a member of the class she says is hers. . . .

Stanley Kauffmann
New Republic, January 2, 1989
[LO some--check it out on Pfeiffer, Malkovich, and gen comments at end