Valmonti is a much better film than its better known mass market competitorii. For one thing, the costumes and scenography are outright exquisite, and respectful of historic detail and historical coherence rather than the usual "some midwestern college kids put sheets on their heads and are now romans & countrymen" Hollywood fare. More importantly, the general conception as well as the various details follow sense rather than hallucination - you can see how a nobleman of that time would be saying those things and doing those things. It holds together quite well intellectually, which is an extremely rare feat.
Annette Benning plays female insanity to utter perfection, and this role clearly proves she was muchly underrated during her lifeiii. She is much, much better than Glenn Close in the mass market bastardization, not merely because her role is a lot better written, but also because she is in point of fact a much better actress. Bonus points for the debunking of the UStard treatment of familiar rape - where Close screams like a crazed boar, Benning merely lies in bed wet. Films aren't, after all, about showing you what you wish to see, leaving aside how they're not about showing you what a horde of ruminants wishes you to see.
Fairuza Balk as a delicious ingenue aged 12 works a lot better than Fairuza Balk as a sex crazed she-monster in American History X. While some could think 16 yo Uma Crookedtoeman makes a better virginal maiden, those some would be very much mistaken - for one thing, what exactly does Malkovich do to her ? Think back, what, specifically, do you see him doing ? So then...
Meg Tilly is pretty good on the grounds of not having to speak too much - obviously Michelle Pfeiffer was much better but then again they had to write that entire contrivance of a role for her, talk about wasted talent. The film actually works a lot better with Meg Tilly kept silent, much like a car works better without an attached xylophone, no matter how good the instrument may be in a more adequate context.
Colin Firth is incredibly bad. Very very bad and filthy miserable. I do not think ever such a bad actor was given a role, or an actor ever played his role this badly, the man belongs in a suspenders commercial or something of that nature. Please no more films with Colin Firth in them.
Altogether worth seeing - if you have to pick one of Valmont or Dangerous Liaisons I'd say pick this one. Or else do what I did - see both, understand a little more about the necessary failure definitionally contained in the american dream.———