The new new new “Dangerous Liaisons” â€” not the one starring Glenn Close (“Dangerous Liaisons,” 1988), Annette Bening (“Valmont,” 1989) or Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Cruel Intentions,” 1999), but the television mini-series with Catherine Deneuve tonight on WE â€” affords many pleasures of a French kind.
This is irony, is it not, to style Rupert Everett, a gay man about town, as a French womanizer? And sultry Nastassja Kinski, fixed up like a desperate Match.com portrait, playing chaste? And Ms. Deneuve, softened by age and oversweet makeup, looking uncannily like a surgeon’s confection and not the real thing we know her to be? Dressed by Jean Paul Gaultier, more Atlantic City than Parisian court, Ms. Deneuve still runs this show. Quel quel everything.
Let’s face it, Europhiles: this is exciting, having the 18th-century pulp story of sexual auteurism and high-end cattiness right on WE, the Women’s Entertainment network. Sure, this American network tries to recast the players as homegrown archetypes in its promotional materials â€” Valmont is “pathological” and the infinitely evil Mme. de Merteuil “strong” and “tough,” a WE exemplar â€” but we know better.
For in the end Valmont will not seek therapy, and Mme. de Merteuil will not be valiant. In this way they are irresistible, and this movie brings across the selfish joy â€” it seems right to say jouissance, but I’ll keep my head â€” of Choderlos de Laclos’s cross/double-cross plot. Both will contrive to ruin the lives of almost everyone, beginning with a man who jilted Mme. de Merteuil and ending with each other.
Shot in France, with heart-pounding horseback scenes in the green countryside, this “Dangerous Liaisons” may be the most beautiful yet. (The cars â€” dark and awesome conveyances of the 1960’s, when this adaptation is set â€” even top the great-looking Jaguar roadster that Ryan Phillippe drove in “Cruel Intentions.”)0