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No synopsis for Dangerous Liaisons.
For more about Dangerous Liaisons and the Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray release, see Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 23, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ziyi Zhang (Zhang Ziyi), Cecilia Cheung, Dong-gun Jang
Director: Hur Jin-ho
» See full cast & crew
Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray Review
Well, maybe not exactly dangerous. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 23, 2013
Opera lovers and Shakespeare fans are used to seeing classic works transported to other times and places, part of any given director's attempts to invest the property with his (or her) "vision". Reviewing as much opera as I do, I've become immune to being shocked by such so-called Eurotrash reimaginings that, say, place Richard Strauss' Elektra in something akin to an S & M gay bar (no, I'm not kidding), and being as relatively geographically close to Ashland, Oregon's vaunted Shakespeare Festival as I am, I also tend to be nonplussed by such sights as All's Well That Ends Well transported to 1930's gangland Chicago. As with any directorial choice, sometimes these gambits work, and sometimes they don't. What tends to sink conceits like these is more often than not a director who imposes his (or her) vision on a property that really doesn't withstand such an imposition, creating a jarring dichotomy between source and presentation. Directors who stay true to the original concept while "gussying it up" (so to speak) often can find innovative new ways to present hoary works and to even occasionally make some salient, if subtle, commentary on them by virtue of the new setting. The 2012 Chinese film Dangerous Liaisons is merely the latest in a long string of adaptations of the eighteenth century novel Les liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Laclos' novel was adapted for the stage by Christopher Hampton in the 1980s, which in turn served as the source for the acclaimed 1988 Stephen Frears film which starred John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer. A year later Milos Forman revisited the same material, courtesy of the original novel this time, in Valmont, which starred Colin Firth, Annette Bening and Meg Tilly. For the purposes of this review, however, probably the most salient comparison would be to 1999's Cruel Intentions , a film which recast Laclos' novel in the hoity-toity world of spoiled rotten rich urban teenagers in a contemporary timeframe. That film jettisoned much of its putative source material in favor of a kind of snarky tone that admittedly rather admirably captured the bad behavior of its young "protagonists". The 2012 Chinese film, on the other hand, toes a more reserved line, staying much truer to Laclos' original novel in terms of plot and to a lesser extent characters, simply lifting them whole cloth and plunking them down in 1930's China rather than pre-Revolution France.
The Hampton-Frears version of Dangerous Liaisons was an epic struggle between sexual libertines who toyed with people like cats with helpless mice. Part of what informed that version of the source novel was the fact that many of the women felt oppressed by their stations in life, something which obviously informed their relationships with men. While this is dealt with explicitly with the subplot involving the ingénue Cécile, it's a kind of unspoken element in several other female characters, most notably the scheming Marquise played by Glenn Close. But in this Chinese version, the scheming woman is a very successful bank chairwoman named Mo (Cecilia Cheung). This is perhaps a fatal misstep in this version, for not only does it rob the character of one of her prime motivations—i.e., striking back at men in the only way she can—it also makes her machinations strangely unmalevolent. What plays out, therefore, is largely devoid of the devious chicanery of the original novel and some of the other adaptations, and what is left almost plays like a comedy of manners at times.
Mo's partner in crime (so to speak) in this version is playboy Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-kun), but once again some subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) changes in character make this a decidedly less dangerous proceeding. Xie, unlike Malkovich's Vicomte de Valmont in the Frears film, doesn't seem to be morally reprehensible, and is in fact a kind of lovable rake or rascal. The film gets off to a sort of tonally unsettling start in this regard by having one woman break in on Xie, who is just finishing up with another woman, in a scene that may not have been planned as playing for laughs, but which ends up doing so anyway. (Some really cynical viewers might think of such outright lampoons on this setup as lecherous would-be impresario Max Bialystock in The Producers.) So right off the bat our two main characters, who should be paradigms of moral turpitude and ruthless scheming, are seen in ways that recolor them and make some of what follows rather chaste, for want of a better term.
This Dangerous Liaisons does somewhat better in detailing the relationship between Xie and the very proper humanitarian Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi), as well as the subplot between the virginal Beibei (Candy Wang) and Beibei's art instructor (changed from a music instructor in the original), Dai (Shawn Dou). By far the best element here is Zhang's Fenyu, a character who is more full bodied than either of the putative main duo. Zhang brings a really touching quality to Fenyu, making her slow but steady seduction by Xie the most emotionally compelling arc of the film.
The 1930's Chinese setting is sumptuous from a production design standpoint, but does little to inform the story, with Chinese refugees evidently taking the place of the poor French who were about to storm the Bastille. Director Hur Jin- ho does an admirable job recreating this strangely Western era in Chinese history, but is hobbled by a screenplay that never is as callous and even brutal as it should be, especially in the finale, where certain tragic elements in the original version are polished up to give something approaching a happy ending.
Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dangerous Liaisons is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This Super 35 film is often a gorgeous sight to behold, especially strong in its emphasis on golds and yellows, which permeate a lot of sequences. Director Hur Jin-ho and cinematographer Kim Byung-seo tend to favor midrange and close- ups throughout the film, which allows this high definition presentation to burst with fine detail, especially with regard to some of the gorgeous costumes and sets (take a look at the feathery fur collar in the first screenshot accompanying this review for a good example). They also tend to favor some gimmicky shots at times, such as a fisheye lens to introduce one of the palatial manses where the drama takes place, effects which seem at odds with historical setting of this version (in fact, there's a lot of anachronistic elements, from music to hairstyles, that may trouble more persnickety viewers). Colors are very nicely saturated throughout this presentation, with equally strong and consistent contrast. A couple of green screened CGI backgrounds look patently fake and very soft, but that is endemic to the elements not a problem with this transfer. The transfer retains a very naturally filmic appearance, and aside from some very minor stability problems in a couple of establishing shots, this is a very lustrous looking Blu-ray.
Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dangerous Liaisons features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in the original Mandarin which is quite excellent but which may seem more restrained than some would expect from a lavish historical "epic" like this. The fact is, for all its sumptuous production design, Dangerous Liaisons tends to play out in relatively small scale dialogue scenes, and this DTS track supports those moments excellently. There are a number of large scale scenes as well, including a couple of big parties, as well as some shots out in the streets of Shanghai, and in those moments some noticeable surround activity kicks in, creating appealing and natural sounding aural depth of field. Fidelity is excellent, though dynamic range is rather limited.
Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Without lapsing into political incorrectness, part of what hobbles this version of Dangerous Liaisons is how polite everyone is. The source material here cries out for scheming, plotting and emotional desperation, none of which really invests this version. Still, this is an uncommonly beautiful film, and those who are curious in seeing a fairly recognizable story told in a radically different fashion may want to check this version out. The Blu-ray does offer superior video and excellent audio, though supplementary materials are pretty slim.
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Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Dangerous Liaisons - January 21, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Well Go USA are offering five members a chance to win a copy of Dangerous Liaisons. This 2012 production revisits the oft-told story, previously filmed as both Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont. Street date is February 12.
• Hur Jin-Ho's Dangerous Liaisons Heads to Blu-ray - December 13, 2012
Independent distributors Well Go USA have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray Chinese-Korean director Hur Jin-Ho's Dangerous Liaisons (2012), a lavish new adaptation of the popular novel by French writer Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. The film stars ...
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