?

Log in

Revisiting Past Faves Can Be Ill-Advised; Or, Wow, John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons - Laura Wise

> Recent Entries
> Archive
> Friends
> Profile

November 15th, 2014


Previous Entry Share Next Entry
01:14 pm - Revisiting Past Faves Can Be Ill-Advised; Or, Wow, John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons
Hi, the hell of the last six weeks is almost over and breathing again is on the near horizon. But that's not what I want to write about.

So, yestereve I worked until 6:15, at which point I downed tools and sighed v.v. heavily in the general direction of Everything. After a light supper I decided to give myself the evening, and thanks to a casual mention earlier in the week, I bethought myself of the 1988 Stephen Frears film Dangerous Liaisons.

When I was younger, this was one of my absolute favorites. The sumptuousness of pre-Revolution 18th-century French clothing and architecture and music, yes; the wit and high style of Christopher Hampton's dialogue, yes; the diving into the psyches of the damaged sex-and-power rakes, male (Valmont) and female (Merteuil), yes indeed; the performances of John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman... and as Valmont's valet, beautiful twenty-something Peter Capaldi. (Remembering the presence of young P Cap was not immaterial in my decision to rewatch, although it wasn't dispositive either.)

I remember arguing with a dear friend back in the day about Malkovich as seducer, in fact. I too was thoroughly seduced by his performance, all glittering eyes and serpentine charm (although by all accounts nothing to Alan Rickman as Valmont in the stage version) -- but my friend was not, and she said, "He is profoundly and utterly creepy."

So last night I fired up the laptop (thanks, Amazon, for the inexpensive streaming rental!) and stretched out on the couch, ready to be seduced again.

By 40 minutes in, I was so creeped out by JMalkovich that I had to turn it off.

All the things I loved in the film before were still there: sumptuousness, dialogue, psychological examination of monstrous behavior, pretty people wall-to-wall. (Young P Cap is extraordinarily gorgeous in this, btw.) Watching on the laptop, however, 17-inch monitor and all, brought Malkovich's Valmont far too close to me. When he leapt into Madame de Tourvel's personal space, truly like a striking rattlesnake, every hair on the back of my neck went up. I could no longer see this as seduction but assault, and because I was so close to the screen, it felt like an assault on me.

Moral: sometimes it's not wise to revisit old favorites. Also, I need to apologize to my friend.

Have you ever had an experience like that?

Regardless, happy weekend, happy days to you!

(21 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:tx_cronopio
Date:November 15th, 2014 07:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, yes, Malkovich has always overwhelmed my Creep-O-Meter, so I'm with your friend on this one!

Glad that you have a bit of a breather.
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 15th, 2014 10:37 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I need a break so badly. But it's coming!

Cheers, Cronopio, and a good weekend.
[User Picture]
From:wildrider
Date:November 15th, 2014 08:29 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, he's creepy -- but the fundamental telling of the tale is that this horrid, vile, creepy creature is somehow redeemed. He goes down stained, but somehow heroic, and he brings down the real villain of the piece with him.

Besides, I remain constantly and eternally mesmerized by everything Malkovich does, whether it's Lenny in Of Mice and Men or himself in Being John Malkovich -- and everything in-between.

But yes, I have had similar backward-looking "OMG!" moments (although the only one I can think of at this time is my adult self sitting down to watch the 60's TV show I loved as a kid, "Batman" -- I didn't remember it was... that... silly).

[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 15th, 2014 10:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, Valmont is (mostly) redeemed -- but the journey it takes to get there! Yikes.

1960s Batman IS silly, but in a fun way. :)

Cheers and hugs to you!
[User Picture]
From:mamculuna
Date:November 15th, 2014 08:42 pm (UTC)
(Link)
My most recent Malkovich experience being Crossbones, I can't think of him as anything but creepy. Saw Dangerous Liaisons long ago, and do remember then thinking of him as weirdly sexy, but now...I love him, but I fear him, indeed.
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 15th, 2014 10:40 pm (UTC)
(Link)
He's aged into a certain creepiness indeed -- but he's a very very good actor regardless. :)

Cheers and good thoughts to you!
[User Picture]
From:claudia_yvr
Date:November 15th, 2014 09:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That makes me think of my Out of Africa viewing experience. The first time I saw it, I was much younger and the central theme to me was the love affair between Meryl Streep's character (Karen) and Robert Redford's (Denys). Seeing it again years later, it was obvious to me that Karen's true love was for Africa and its people. The interesting thing is that I loved the movie just as much the second time around, though my perspective had completely changed.

(Incidentally, I could've smacked Denys for looking down on Karen for being so attached to her possessions. This was a man who ended a friendship because the person borrowed a book from him and didn't return in a timely fashion! It made me sad that Karen never found a man who truly valued her. Denys was improvement over her ex-husband, but that's not saying much; he was beautiful and had his good qualities, but overall was selfish, disloyal and judgmental. Not exactly hero material, yet the first time I saw the movie I hoped the relationship would work out. The second time round, I was relieved that it didn't because Karen deserved so much better.)

[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 15th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
It's the mark of a good work of art, I think, that one can take different pleasures from it each time one re-views or re-reads. So cool that it happened to you with this film! :)

Cheers and hugs!
[User Picture]
From:rahirah
Date:November 15th, 2014 10:05 pm (UTC)
(Link)
When I was young I read quite a lot of older books (as in written in the first half of the twentieth century and earlier) and loved them uncritically. Almost every single time I've revisited them as an adult I've been smacked in the face by something racist (I'm braced for period sexism) which I never noticed as a child. Makes me wonder how contemporary books will read in a hundred years. :/
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 15th, 2014 10:43 pm (UTC)
(Link)
My favorite Golden Age mysteries are the WORST for that hit of racism at unexpected moments. Just, oh dear oh dear. And 1930s films, too.

And you're right. Even fifty years from now, I suspect our media and books will cause the same horrible shocks.

Thanks and cheers to you!
[User Picture]
From:stateless82
Date:November 15th, 2014 10:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
The first thing that came to mind was Manhattan, but that's not really the same thing. Different path of creepiness. Different reasons.

I would have loved to have seen Alan Rickman be Valmont.

What was your light dinner? I need to make myself something tonight, but am out of ideas.
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 15th, 2014 11:07 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Woody Allen definitely counts for this, although Manhattan would be worse than Hannah and Her Sisters which is my fave.

My light dinner was, alas, uninspiring -- a salad with some turkey and cranberries on top. Toast as dessert. ;)

Cheers and hugs and stuff!
[User Picture]
From:gwynnega
Date:November 16th, 2014 01:26 am (UTC)
(Link)
I am a fan of that film, but I'm pretty sure Malkovich has always creeped me out in it. But he was even creepier in PORTRAIT OF A LADY!

[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 16th, 2014 01:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Gilbert Osmond, SHUDDER.

Your comment sent me to google, where I found this 2004 essay on rereading Portrait of a Lady. I'd be interested what you think. :)

Hugs hugs!
[User Picture]
From:gwynnega
Date:November 16th, 2014 09:56 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Cool article! I was already in my forties when I first read Portrait, so my perspective on the book was more like the author's later view. I never had a very high opinion of Isabel Archer! But I still adore Ralph Touchett...
[User Picture]
From:roguedemon
Date:November 16th, 2014 07:53 am (UTC)
(Link)
That film is one of my faves. I love JM in it. And I always thought that Valmont being creepy was the point. He and Glenn Close's Marquis were two villains matching wits, and nobody won. My sympathies were with the marquis. She was a brilliant woman trapped in the wrong period of history. In a different time, she would have controlled her life, and ruled some part of the world. Instead, she is embittered by the role she is trapped in, and it twists her into the character we see. A villain, yes, but a human one. Valmont, as an aristocratic male, has true power. She does not (although she's obviously better off as an aristocrat than as a peasant. ;))
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 16th, 2014 01:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I agree with your reading and your sympathy for the Marquise (while she is still a villain), yes indeed. The thing for me is this -- And I always thought that Valmont being creepy was the point. He's supposed to be sexy-creepy, so that it's understandable that Tourvel succumbs, and that's how I saw it the other times I've watched; this time, however, he seemed just gross to me, and I couldn't get why she was seduced.

I think my taste has changed. ;)

Hugs!
[User Picture]
From:roguedemon
Date:November 16th, 2014 11:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I get what you mean. I always felt that Valmont was hot, but not in the scenes where he is seducing women. I felt like he was being so obvious that someone would see him coming a mile away. But I could see how Tourvel, being incredibly naive, could be taken in. She had a radically different mindset, and she didn't have the experience she needed to deal with someone like him. There are a lot of people that assume that human being as basically good. Those people are wrong. ;) And those people are more likely to be taken in by a Valmont, because they don't see through his bullshit and he can get his hooks into them -- basically that's how abusive relationships start, it's like a frog in boiling water. And I think that a valmont did have feeling for her, even twisted as they were, helped him sell it.

For me, the movie was always about Valmont/ Marguise. ;) So wonderfully twisted, and equally matched partners.
[User Picture]
From:roguedemon
Date:November 16th, 2014 11:46 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Damn, sorry for all the grammatical errors! Damn autocorrect.
[User Picture]
From:beadattitude
Date:November 16th, 2014 12:21 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, yes, Malkovich has always rubbed me the wrong way. ::shudders:: But the clothes and setting were FABULOUS. Why on earth didn't they use Alan Rickman? Oh my my my.

A young Peter Capaldi, you say? I shall have to look up pictures!
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:November 16th, 2014 01:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Although Malkovich's in this picture, young Peter is lovely here. :)

Cheers and hugs!

> Go to Top
LiveJournal.com