Dangerous Liaisons TV Review

Since time immemorial, sex and love have been used to yield power. It is one of those tools that can be used for good or for evil (for lack of a better term). How it is used is wholly dependent on the individual and their needs.

The new Starz series, Dangerous Liaisons, is a prelude to the infamous 18th-century novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos. Pascal Valmont (Nicholas Denton) gets around. Among his many partners is the wealthy, middle-aged, and bored Genevieve de Merteuil (Lesley Manville). Though he claims to love and wants to marry Camille (Alice Englert), Camille is not pleased when she finds out that she is not his only one.

Turning her anger and hurt into blackmail, she makes the following demand. Camille will say “I do” if he can seduce Jacqueline de Montrachet (Carice van Houten).

My first thought in watching the premiere episode was confusion. I was expecting the series to follow the narrative of the book (and its adaptations up to this point). While what was presented was compelling, I kept wondering where the series was going. When Camille revealed her hand and her plan, that is what caught my interest.

What makes this version different is that it is the women who have the power. Though they live in a world in which they are second-class, they are not wallflowers. Using the cards they have been dealt, they are using what is at their disposal to get what they want.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Dangerous Liaisons airs on Starz on Sunday night at 8PM.

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Cruel Intentions The Musical Review

Two thoughts come to mind when it is announced that a musical based on a story that is not a musical will soon be on stage. One thought is that the producers have chosen a known work with a dedicated fan base, who can spread the word and reduce the work of the publicity department. The other thought is that the producers took the easy way out, choosing a known work instead of taking a chance on a work by a writer whose name is not as well-known.

I saw Cruel Intentions: The Musical earlier today. As with the 1999 film of the same name, the story is set in New York City. Sebastian Valmont (Constantine Rousouli, taking over from Ryan Phillipe) and Kathryn Merteuil (Lauren Zarkin, taking over from Sarah Michelle Gellar) are rich step-siblings. They make a bet that Sebastian can seduce Annette Hargrove (Carrie St. Louis, taking over from Reese Witherspoon), the virgin daughter of their school’s new headmaster. If Sebastian wins, he gets to sleep with Kathryn, the one girl who is out of his reach. If Kathryn wins, she can claim ownership of Sebastian’s car, his pride and joy.  It seems like a simple task, but by the time the game of seduction and lies is over, nothing will be the same.

Based on the book Dangerous Liaisons, the show is a ton of fun and extremely enjoyable. True to the film incarnation, with a singable soundtrack straight out of the 1990s, the show is one of the best I have seen in a very long time.

I absolutely recommend it.

Cruel Intentions is playing at (Le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleeker Street, New York City) until March 16th, 2018. 

 

 

Throwback Thursday-Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Valmont (1989)

About 20 years ago, the late rapper, the Notorious B.I.G released a song titled “Mo Money Mo Problems”.

If having too much money is a problem, then the lead characters in Les Liaisons Dangereuses are in real trouble.

Over a period of about one year, Hollywood released two different adaptations with two different casts. Both were based on the original novel.

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

The Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) is a widowed aristocrat. She and the Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont (John Malkovich) are playing a dangerous game.

Valmont gets off on seducing women. The Marquise makes him a bet. If Valmont can seduce the teenaged Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman), she will invite him to her bed. While Cecile’s seduction is easy, the challenge is Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), a married woman whose husband is away at court.

Valmont (1989)

Stepping into the same roles a year later was Annette Bening as the Marquise, Colin Firth as Valmont, Meg Tilly as Madame de Tourvel and Fairuza Balk as Cecile.

In this case, I like both movies. I like them both because they prove that when someone has too much money, power and time on their hands, trouble is bound to happen.

I recommend them both.

 

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