Liaisons Dangereuses, Les (1959)

Liaisons Dangereuses, Les (1959)

“Which of us molded the other?”

A French couple — Valmont (Gérard Philipe) and Juliette (Jeanne Moreau) — whose marriage revolves around seducing and then abandoning new “conquests” find their happiness compromised when Valmont beds a virginal teenager (Jeanne Valérie) whose fiance (Jean-Louis Trintignant) has been waiting patiently for her while pursuing his studies, then falls in love with a married woman (Annette Vadim) who sparks new feelings within him.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • French Films
  • Infidelity
  • Jeanne Moreau Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Roger Vadim Films
  • Sexuality

Roger Vadim’s adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel is an interesting entry in the cinematic annals of this scandalous story’s numerous iterations. Featuring a rich, jazzy soundtrack by Thelonius Monk, and upscale settings in snowy retreats:

… the action and settings have clearly been modernized, but the basic tenet of sociopaths using others for their own pleasure is as relevant as ever. Moreau and Philipe — in his final performance before dying at age 36 from liver cancer — are well cast in the lead roles as the master manipulators (here a married couple rather than friends, as in the novel) whose own sexual gratification revolves around their exploitation of others:

Vadim’s real-life wife Annette is appropriately tragic as Philipe’s most complex conquest:

… and Valérie and Trintignant are believable as a naive young couple whose lives are also changed forever by their involvement with Valmont and Juliette:

Fans of this harsh classic tale will want to check this version out — but/and should be prepared for a startling update to the story’s original ending.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Marcel Grignon’s cinematography
  • Thelonius Monk’s score

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.


One thought on “Liaisons Dangereuses, Les (1959)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    More or less a master class in How To Make Sex Dull. This film just slogs along with a sense of self-importance, making us wonder ‘Why should we care?’

    Surprisingly, Vadim’s then-wife Annette seems to come off best but that’s not saying a lot. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the ponderous source material but I would put forth that Milos Forman’s film ‘Valmont’ (1989) remains the most compelling version (largely thanks to the direction and the cast).

    What makes Vadim’s version somewhat bearable is Marcel Grignon’s arresting b&w photography, which includes some agreeable location shooting.

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