29/03/2010

MY LIBERTINE SUNDAY - LOVELACE, VALMONT AND DANGEROUS LIAISONS

A full immersion into the world of libertinism. I don't know whether to worry or not: I went on and on with  my sudden -  recent but intense -  interest in libertines.
Yesterday morning I woke up as early as 7 but I didn't feel like getting up so soon, since it was Sunday. So I remembered I had just got  VALMONT DVD (1989) from my " fairy Merryweather", who had suggested me to watch it  after she heard I had appreciated Lord Damerel (G. Heyer, VENETIA) and am appreciating what Richard Armitage is doing with his Lovelace (Richardson, CLARISSA, BBC4 radiodrama ). And there I was. 7 o'clock in the morning:  coffee, laptop ... in bed with the first libertine of the day: Vicomte Colin Valmont.


A very young ( and incredibly gorgeous ) Colin Firth, performs as the Vicomte in 1989 Milos Forman's film version of Les Liaisons dangereuses, the French epistolary  novel by P. C. de Laclos .
The 1782 four -volume novel is the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals (ex lovers) who use sex as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others, all the while enjoying their cruel games. Milos Forman's made it a comedy cleaning it from the tragic and cruel details.He created a charming portrayal of the French society at the end of the 18th century with wonderful costumes and locations but brought the human comedy of loving, seducing, betraying, competing, winning and losing beyond time and context.


Colin Firth's Valmont is smart, disenchanted, joking, handsome and charming, daring and cheeky, amoral but smiling and tender. What he lacks is the devilish perversity, the tragic calculation and cruelty of the other
 Valmonts. Forman's protagonist plays the libertine as a joyous game of extreme freedom and his seductive schemes are often depicted as comic. Even his final death in a duel becomes comedy.
I simply found it delightful and loved watching this movie though I noticed some little flaws and  a "hole" in the script: why does Valmont accept to seduce 15-year-old Cecile when he refused at first? (the book explains)



I unwillingly slipped off  the blankets  at 9.30 . There was a huge  ... no, not a huge carriage... a huge ... no, not a huge 18th century palace... just a huge pile of laundry to be ironed waiting for me! Could I lose all the previous  magic atmosphere like that? Not at all. So, I played on the first two episodes of BBC4 Clarissa (The Pursuit, and The Flight) to get ready to listen to episode 3 in the afternoon. Ironing in such company became less boring.
Then after lunch, at 4 p.m here in Italy, live on BBC4 episode 3. The Imprisonment. Soon after that,  BBC 4 Open Book in which Mariella Frostrup interviewed the director of Clarissa, Marilyn Imrie, about the dramatisation.  

 The libertine in Clarissa by Samuel Richardson ( epistolary novel published in1748 so  earlier than the French Liaisons) , is Robert Lovelace. His stubborness at seducing good -hearted,  innocent Clarissa resembles Valmont's persistent attempts to win Madam de Tourvel, who is very young and naive, very religious and good-principled and , especially married and faithful to her husband. But Lovelace owns a histrionic duplicity of behaviour which Forman's Valmont does not have:  wicked Lovelace is stubbornly persuing his aim of ruining Clarissa's honour taking her virginity, he's cunningly planning a false marriage to trick her and overcome her refusal, but he plays the convincing passionate / tender lover and ... what is more he is really convinced that he IS in love with "his charmer, his angel" , that he is HELPING her to escape her unfair family's grasp.
Richard Armitage gave another brilliant sample of how talented he is at using his wonderful voice: he whispered seducing "please" or "I love you" and  threatening "you must", parodized an elderly gentleman, played the drunk boasting rascal and a post boy, was the patient unrequited husband in tears, the tender lover expecting his reward and,  finally,  the devilish rapist convinced of making love instead ... and all that impeccably.
At the end of the episode I was so thrilled and anxious that I found it difficult to calm down and listen to the following interview. The final scene, the rape, had been different from the one I had read in Richardson and even from the BBC miniseries,  but so disquieting. Despicable rake! I needed a break. Stop with libertines. At least for a while ...
After dinner out,  at my mother's,  and some chat with the whole family before the fire, I was back home. 11 a.m. I didn't feel like reading nor sleeping. A movie? From my costume drama collection? Which one?
Just the  right one to complete the route : Stephen Frears, Dangerous Liaisons (1988) . And I was again in bed with a libertine: Vicomte John Valmont.


A curiosity: Milos Forman had alredy started working at his Valmont and was still filming it when Stephen Frears's movie came out in 1988. Forman was such a perfectionist that ... it took him too long! So, when his Valmont was released, it was either ignored or criticized for repeating the same plot of a widely popular and appreciated film that had just come out one year earlier
Anyhow, Frears's Dangerous Liaisons  is astonishingly beautiful!  John Malkovich 's Valmont is cold and fiendish , and the decadence, the tragicality, the perversity of the original text are all there  to an extremity. Like in the book,  the fragile victims are sacrificed and suffer much:  in this movie , young Cecile (Uma Turman) gets pregnant and suffers a miscarriage, she doesn't end in marriage to an important man and in the Royal Chapel like  in Forman's movie; madame De Turvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) suffers Valmont's violent rejection and consumes herself to death, she isn't forgiven and helped by her old husband like in  Forman's film; the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont are trecherous, perfidious, cold, greedy, devilish. There is no joy in their being out of any rule and completely free to break them. The whole film is rather  dark and tragic, in fact. But it is definitely  a great costume movie. An excellent one.
P.S. Chevalier Darceney, Cecile's young music teacher and lover, is Keanu Reeves in this film.

9 comments:

Katrina said...

It sounds like you've been having a great time.I love anything with Colin Firth in it. I approve of your way of dealing with the ironing, it's the only way I can face it.

M. Gray said...

OH I've never seen Colin so young! And that black and white photo of Richard is my favorite yet!!

Jac said...

What a wonderful Sunday for you, MG!
I can just imagine and hear RA saying "please," "i love you," "you must," etc. and I melt. Truly a wonderful voice!

Laurel Ann said...

Ha! Maria is your appetite for libertine's sated? Not. ;-)

There is just something so enthralling about wickedness that we can not look away. My hope is that Richard Armitage will star in a mini-series of Clarissa.

I have just finished listening to his recording of Venetia and luved it. Only regret is that it is abridged. Not enough Heyer or Armitage to completely satisfy.

Thanks for sharing your decadent Sunday.

lunarossa said...

I love Milos Forman's Valmont more than the Frears' version, although it has more commercial success. I cannot find anything attractive or fascinating in John Malkovich! Unfortunately I didn't like any of the actors/actress in the Frears' version apart from Michelle Pfeiffer and I think it was a shame the Valmont was neglected because of Dangerous Liaisons. I don't know Clarissa, maybe I should give it a try. Ciao. A.

missbluestocking said...

You JUST reminded me of the existance of this film. I've always wanted to watch it--I've been wanting to see it since...eight years ago! But I keep forgetting. And I was then to young to get my hands on this movie. But now...there is Youtube...mwuahahaha. I'm off to watch it right now.

Lua said...

After watching Colin Firth in P&P, I don’t think there is a chance that he can ever disappoint me!
Sounds like you had a great Sunday- I think this Sunday will be a great one for me watching this movie! Thanks again :)

vvb32 reads said...

whoa, such differences. i've only seen the frears film. now i want to see forman's version and read the book! great review.

i don't know why but when i see mr darcy-colin on your follower list (sidebar) it just tickles me. i gotta get him to become one of my followers ;-D

Judy said...

Great post, Maria. I really liked both movies but saw them some time apart - I think it would be interesting to see them close together, as you have done. I've only heard the first two episodes of 'Clarissa' so far - I've read the whole enormous novel and loved it, so was a bit disappointed to find that quite a bit of the radio adaptation is extra stuff that isn't in the book at all, like all the silly comedy with Clarissa's mother not being able to say the word "libertine" in episode 1, and Solmes being mad on biscuits. However, I do really like the parts where Richard Armitage and Zoe Waites read out the letters, using more of Richardson's language - they both have such great speaking voices, and RA really shows how Lovelace seems so charming and yet is so evil underneath.