Dangerous Liaisons [Blu-Ray] Stephen Frears

Dangerous Liaisons [Blu-Ray] Stephen Frears
If modern psychology has taught us anything, it's that sexuality is linked to ego in an annihilating capacity, making the act one of power and abandon, respectively. And traditionally speaking, the power imbalance comes down to the battle between men and women, wherein the chaste female wields power by controlling when and how she gives in to the unrelenting male id, something implicit in the structure of Stephen Frears' comically profound adaptation of the Choderlos de Laclos novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Bored socialites Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and Sebastien de Valmont (John Malkovich) play an elaborate mind game of sexual courtship involving the manipulation and destruction of weaker, unsuspecting members of their class system. Isabelle offers up her body and will in return for Sebastien morally decimating the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) in yet another game of seduction and revenge, which is merely a vanity act, noting that his seduction of Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman) to get revenge on Raphael Danceny (Keanu Reeves) for refusing her advances is too easy. Taking place during the Libertine era, this candid sexual acts and callous handling of manipulation as a mode of vanity acts as an admonition of sorts, reinforcing the importance of chastity and virtue in the face of an anarchic movement. But in the context of Frears' film, the story speaks to the nature of image performance as an isolating element, making romance and human connection an impossibility when one's notion of personal identity is so rigid. Isabelle and Sebastien ultimately sacrifice the love and passion they want most for the arbitrary nature of mental superiority and "winning" any given mind game. Sebastien falls in love with Madame de Tourvel while seducing her, but ruins her anyways to save face with Isabelle, who similarly spends all of her time trying to impress Sebastien with her manipulative tactics rather than giving into her desire for him. These concepts are reinforced through Frears' vision, which often finds characters staring at themselves in mirrors to perfect, pleasant, but indifferent facial expressions. The tragedy is that of social expectations and smug identity as a manner of personal downfall, which is of particular importance contextually since this film was made during the impulsive and superficial '80s. Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton discuss the nature of social image versus internal passion on the commentary track included with the Blu-Ray while also acknowledging the adult comedy of it all. (Warner)