1930s Shanghai is the setting for this delicious adaptation of the classic erotic novel first brought to screen by Stephen Frears (with a great cast headed by Glenn Close and John Malkovich). “Pretty people behaving badly” takes on a different twist with gangsters, sophisticated nightlife, opulent locales and the looming threat of the Japanese invasion.
In this new Dangerous Liaisons, wealthy businessman and serial seducer, Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun) is Valmont, the charismatic libertine. Mo Jieyu (Cecelia Cheung) is Marquise de Merteuil, the affluent femme fatale bracing herself for beauty’s expiration date. And Du Yufen (Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is Madame de Tourvel, the innocent human collateral haplessly caught in the cynical sexual gamesmanship between these two erotic schemers — but victim seems to become victor when the beautiful young widow is able to inspire true love from the seducer who had elected her as the pawn in his nefarious game.
As would be necessary with a story like this the cinematography is gorgeous, the costumes are gorgeous; in fact everything about the film is gorgeous! There’s a reason why the story that lies at the heart of Dangerous Liaisons is told over and over again; this racy mix of sex, mind games and gender politics remains bitingly relevant today.