From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Dangerous Liaisons is a 1988 film directed by Stephen Frears. It is based upon a play by Christopher Hampton which in turn is based on the classic eighteenth-century novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.
The Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) calls on her partner, the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich), to seduce the young daughter of her cousin, Madame de Volange (Swoosie Kurtz), thus having revenge on a former lover, the man to whom young Cecile de Volange (Uma Thurman) is promised in marriage. At first, Valmont refuses her proposition: he wants to seduce the prudish Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is spending time at his aunt's house while her husband is abroad.
Upon discovering that Madame de Volanges had been secretly writing to Madame de Tourvel to warn her against his evil nature, Valmont changes his mind and decides to follow Merteuil's scheme. They take advantage of the fact that young Cecile is in love with her music teacher, the Chevalier Danceny (Keanu Reeves), who does not qualify in the eyes of her mother as a potential suitor.
At his aunt's, Valmont easily seduces Cecile. She later becomes pregnant with Valmont's child, but suffers a miscarriage, avoiding a scandal. Valmont meanwhile steadily targets his main prey, Madame de Tourvel, who, though realizing that she has become his prey, eventually gives in to his tireless advances.
Merteuil had promised the Vicomte a night in her company should he be successful. Nevertheless, she refuses to grant him his prize unless he breaks off with Tourvel completely, threatening to spoil his reputation as a debaucher. Valmont heeds to her request and leaves Tourvel, who at this falls fatally ill.
Valmont goes back to Merteuil, who in the meantime has taken Chevalier Danceny as her lover, and demands the immediate fulfillment of her promise. The Marquise refuses, and they declare war.
The Marquise reveals to Danceny that Valmont had seduced Cecile. Danceny and Valmont duel, and the latter is severely wounded. Before he dies, he asks Danceny to visit Tourvel and assure her of his love, and hands him a collection of letters from Merteuil.
After hearing Valmont's message from Danceny, Madame de Tourvel expires. Danceny publishes Merteuil's letters, and she is booed and disgraced by the audience at the opera.
- Glenn Close as Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil
- John Malkovich as Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame Marie de Tourvel
- Swoosie Kurtz as Madame de Volanges
- Keanu Reeves as Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny
- Mildred Natwick as Madame de Rosemonde
- Uma Thurman as Cécile de Volanges
- Peter Capaldi as Azolan