Milos Forman’s Valmont: “Restored”

I don’t know if this is a new, longer cut or just a happy return of Forman’s forgotten classic, but for whatever reason his lustrous Les Liaisons Dangereuses adaptation is back on screen at Cannes:

 

And how happy it would be at last to have a proper DVD release!  Especially since I was just enjoying Meg Tilly’s pulchritudinous charm in the underrated Psycho II.

Vastly different in tone (and considerably different in plot) than the original novel or the Hampton-Frears adaptation, Valmont is a carefully paced tragicomedy whose portrayal of the ancien regime at play– at once wittily inventive and dreamily languid– reveals at last emotions too bitter and complex for resolution.  The ultimate effect is very melancholy, yet ambiguous: there is none of the sturm und drang of its forebears, no conspicuous frown of the gods above.  Yet the sadness is such that we feel something terrible has been lost; and perhaps too, Forman wishes to adumbrate the collapse of the aristocracy, as well as the myriad adventures the story’s survivors might endure in the years ahead.  Ridiculous as it may sound, one could dream of a parallel world in which Henry Thomas’ Danceny becomes some sort of Pimpernel, or Merteuil romances her way through the Directorate, while Cecile enjoys a veritable Vanity Fair of reversals of fortune.  Yet Tilly’s Tourvel, one feels, would still have her somber eye (and ah, what eyes she had!) turned back upon that grave . . . .

 

 

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