Saturday Night Cinema: Les Liaisons Dangereuses

    • Sarah Michelle Gellar | Change from childhood to 2017
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      Sarah Michelle Gellar | Change from childhood to 2017

    Author: Pamela Geller

    Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema feature is an homage to the “sensual, gravel-voiced actress who became the face of the New Wave, France’s iconoclastic mid-20th-century film movement,” Jeanne Moreau who passed away at the age of 89 this week. Journalists liked to call her the thinking moviegoer’s femme fatale.

    Jeanne Moreau was a cinema giant. Here’s where to stream five of her greatest roles

    The eerie Les Liaisons Dangereuses is based on an 18th-century classic, the novel by Choderlos de Laclos, updated in this “glossy study of an immoral couple who get their comeuppance.”


    The soundtrack by Thelonious Monk is outstanding,

    Pierre Ambroise Francois Choderlos de Laclos’s 18th century novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses was filmed several times. In Roger Vadim’s version, Jeanne Moreau coerces her husband Gerard Philippe into ruining the reputation of pious Annette Vadim (the director’s wife at the time). Philippe spoils Moreau’s nasty little plan by falling in love with his intended victim. While the novel merely humiliated Moreau’s character for her misdeeds, Vadim comes up with a far more painful and permanent punishment. Since the release of the 1988 Dangerous Liaisons, Vadim’s film has travelled under the title Dangerous Liaisons 1960 (even though it was technically completed in 1959, and released to the U.S. in 1961). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


    For English subtitles, click on the CC on the bottom right of the screen and then click on EN – second down on the list.

    Screen: ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’: French Import Opens at Henry Miller’s
    By Bosley Crowther, NY Times, December 19, 1961

    NOTE that the title and credits at the beginning of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” are superimposed upon a chessboard on which the chessmen are obviously in play. Here is the tip-off to the nature of this supposedly naughty French film that followed hot on the heels of “La Dolce Vita” into Henry Miller’s Theatre last night.

    As much as the international chitchat about this updated eighteenth-century tale of bedroom shenanigans among the haute monde had led us to be prepared for something racy and appropriately informal in the line of Gallic amour, if turns out to be a rather solemn, ritualistic and dispassionate display of strictly tactical maneuvers in a bored game of musical beds.


    Nor does the deceptive darkening of the prints in a couple of shots of notably underdressed young women account for the flatness of the film. We saw it first with these shots lighted and can assure you their candor added naught. A couple of store-window dummies without drapery might get the same effect.

    For the dreary fact is that Roger Vadim, who directed and helped to write the script, has presented a volatile subject with a tired and aimless attitude. Where the novel of Choderlos De Laclos, upon which the script is based, offers a startling insight into the manners of a social stratum in a stilted age, this film offers no more than a wan look at a jaded married couple playing games in a modern void.

    The premise is that this couple, figures in the diplomatic world, have a casual domestic arrangement. Each may have as many love affairs as he or she wishes (or can handle), so long as neither falls in love. This has led them to a series of adventures with various lovers and as graphic and absorbing at mistresses that is made about the outset as the conventional swapping of pieces at the beginning of a game of chess.

    Then, in the middle section, the husband is captivated by a virtuous young married woman who will not bend to his bland seductive moves. He pursues her amid the gay surroundings of a sparkling Swiss ski resort, while deftly seducing another youngster as a round-about favor to his wife (it seems that this youngster has snagged for marriage the wife’s latest gentleman friend). Meanwhile, the wife is seducing this youngster’s secret lover-boy.

    Sounds fast, you may think —maybe frisky, in the manner of the memorable “La Ronde,” which also happened to feature the talents of the late Gerard Philipe. But it isn’t. Except in a few places where M. Vadim lets M. Philipe make his amorous maneuvers with a slight trace of elegant poker-faced farce, the going is slow and somber, serious and stark, as though love-making under these conditions were entirely academic and dull.

    The mood is also burdened by the heaviness of the wife, who is made a quite nasty, noxious creature by bulgy-eyed Jeanne Moreau. Together, these two performers, acting with an air of decadence, seem at times to be a couple of odd psychotics, betraying further an aimless attitude. And the morbid mood is completed when the husband does fall in love with the virtuous young woman, finally wins her and brings on a melodramatic doom.

    The mood is neither brightened nor bettered by Annette Vadim in the role of the virtuous young woman. She’s a sad one, without beauty, chic or charm—just another little heavy-lipped French girl with a mop of messy hair. And Jeanne Valerie as the youngster who lets herself be seduced with a minimum of resistance or resentment has the quality of a naughty, silly child.

    The English subtitles lack distinction, as does the French dialogue.

    M. Vadim brings off a stalemate in this dull exhibition of boudoir chess.

    The Cast
    LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, screen play by Roger Vailland, Roger Vadim and Claude Brule, based on the novel by Choderlos De Laclos; directed by M. Vadim and produced by Les Films Marceu-Cocinor. Released by Astor Pictures, Inc. At Henry Miller’s Theatre, 124 West Forty-third Street. Running time: 106 minutes.
    Valmont . . . . . Gerard Philipe
    Juliette . . . . . Jeanne Moreau
    Cecile . . . . . Jeanne Valerie
    Marianne . . . . . Annette Vadim
    Volange . . . . . Simone Renant
    Danceny . . . . . Jean-Louis Trintignant

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