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Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

In Dangerous Liaisons, the visual splendour and moral decadence of 18th century France come vividly alive. It’s sophisticated, witty, and as close to a movie masterpiece as you were likely to find in the 1980s.

The theme is the abuse of sexual power among the lacy, frilly, and malicious aristocrats of 1782.


The vindictive Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the slimy Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) are the vain, corrupt generals who manipulate their conquests in the bedroom like soldiers on the battlefield, and Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), delicate as a rose, is the virtuous victim of their deadly game of seduction.

Of course, what these villains don’t count on is falling in love themselves, and when they do, they orchestrate their own destruction.

Glenn Close plays her meanest role since Fatal Attraction (1987) and although she does look like one of those American Revolution paintings of George Washington, hers is a chilling portrait of evil, cold as marble.


John Malkovich is the one jarring mistake. With his wimpy, droning voice and clammy, snakelike body movements, he’s all wrong as a powerful and persuasive lady-killer who takes on a bet to seduce the beautiful but naive young Cécile (Uma Thurman), stealing her virginity before her impending marriage.

Sumptuous sets, lavish costumes and lush camerawork add to the stylish decadence.

Marquise de Merteuil
Glenn Close
Vicomte de Valmont
John Malkovich
Madame de Tourvel
Michelle Pfeiffer
Madame de Volanges
Swoosie Kurtz
Chevalier Dancény
Keanu Reeves
Madame de Rosemonde
Mildred Natwick
Cécile de Volanges
Uma Thurman
Peter Capaldi
Joe Sheridan

Stephen Frears