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'Dangerous Liaisons': Best Picture Oscar Contender

Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons

Next in line in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated” series is Stephen Frears' 1988 best picture nominee Dangerous Liaisons, which will screen on Monday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Actress Swoosie Kurtz (who plays Madame de Volanges) and producer Hank Moonjean will take part in an onstage discussion following the screening.

In my opinion, Dangerous Liaisons – despite one major flaw – was the best of the five Oscar nominated films of 1988. (For the record: The winner was the crowd-pleasing mediocrity Rain Man. The other three nominees were Mississippi Burning, Working Girl, and The Accidental Tourist.)

Set among the decadent milieu of 18th-century French aristocracy, this film adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play (based on Choderlos de Laclos' novel) is as thematically uncompromising as it is visually elaborate. The aforementioned major flaw was the casting of John Malkovich as one of the story's chief villain-seducers.

Not for a moment could I believe that Michelle Pfeiffer – or any other woman, for that matter – would fall in either lust or love with Malkovich's heel. Glenn Close, however, is excellent as the overly powdered, overly bewigged, and overly bosomed villainess, and so is Pfeiffer as Malkovich's chief victim. Also in the cast are Keanu Reeves, Uma Thurman, and veteran Mildred Natwick in her final film appearance.

Dangerous Liaisons received a total of seven well-deserved Academy Award nominations and took home Oscars for Art Direction (Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Gerard James), Costume Design (James Acheson) and Writing - Screenplay based on material from another medium (Hampton). It was also nominated for Best Picture (Norma Heyman and Moonjean, producers), Actress in a Leading Role (Close), Actress in a Supporting Role (Pfeiffer) and Music - Original Score (George Fenton). Strangely, Frears failed to nab a best director nod.

In 1989, Milos Forman's Valmont – another adaptation of Les Liaisons dangereuses – came and went without causing much of a stir. Adapted by Jean-Claude Carrière, the film starred Colin Firth, who happened to be a much more believable Valmont than Malkovich, Annette Bening, and Meg Tilly. But despite its capable cast, director, writer, and technical personnel, Valmont felt and looked like a faded carbon copy of Dangerous Liaisons.

Dean Parisot's Oscar-winning live action short The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, featuring Steven Wright, Rowan Atkinson, and Laurie Metcalf, and Cordell Barker's Academy Award-nominated animated short The Cat Came Back, a National Film Board of Canada production about a man who can't get rid of a determined yellow cat, will be screened prior to the feature.

Individual tickets for the remaining screenings in part four of “Great To Be Nominated” are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets may be purchased by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets also may be purchased online at www.oscars.org/events. There are no minimum order requirements and no transaction or processing fees. Tickets may be purchased online until noon PDT on the day of the event.

Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

Photo: © A.M.P.A.S.

'Dangerous Liaisons': Best Picture Oscar Contender © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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1 Comment to 'Dangerous Liaisons': Best Picture Oscar Contender

  1. Angela

    Malkovich exuded a raw, undeniable sexuality that no other actor could possibly have mustered. His performance as Valmont was compelling and beyond believable…one of my top 5. Malkovich could seduce me any day of the week.