Dangerous Liaisons (2012) Blu-ray Review
The two share a dance, gliding elegantly across the floor, he in a fitted tux and she in a glamorous gown. She is Mo Jieyu (Cecilia Cheung, LOST IN TIME), a socialite and business tycoon. He is Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-kun, TAEGUKGI), a rich playboy with an appetite for anything with two breasts and two legs. Prompted by her own nature, she urges her partner to “take care of that virgin” across the room.
That virgin is Beibei (Candy Wang, a name better suited for the adult film industry), the teenage fiancée of a millionaire who denied Mo Jieyu not long ago. But Xie Yifan’s eyes are on Du Fenyu (Ziyi Zhang, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA), a widow and the kind of woman Xie Yifan could easily fall for. Mo Jieyu, knowing Xie Yifan all too well, concocts a bet that he cannot bed Du Fenyu and then ditch her without falling madly in love. If Mo Jieyu wins, she gets a piece of Xie Yifan’s land to build a port. If Xie Yifan wins, Mo Jieyu must sleep with him.
So begins the latest take on DANGEROUS LIAISONS. The film is based on the 1782 novel Les liaisons dangereuses by French writer Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, which also inspired a mid-‘80s play. Western audiences will be more familiar with Stephen Frear’s 1988 adaptation, which starred Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer and John Malkovich, or Milos Forman’s 1989 take, VALMONT, with Annette Bening, Meg Tilly and Colin Firth or 1999’s CRUEL INTENTIONS, with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe.
This version (which screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors’ Fortnight), written by Yan Geling (who wrote the novel on which Zhang Yimou’s THE FLOWERS OF WAR is based) and directed by Hur Jinho (CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST), puts the story in 1930s Shanghai. The filmmakers don’t allow this time and setting to serve a major function to enhance the story, but they do allow for gorgeous production design and costumes. There is also stunning and stylish (sometimes overly so) cinematography by Kim Byung-seo.
But don’t let the beauty fool you. DANGEROUS LIAISONS, like the depictions before it, may look decadent and be sensual at times, but it is also incredibly sleazy. Partly because of that but mostly because it’s difficult to root for either of the leads (are we even supposed to?), the movie is tremendously hard to sit through. It is, when all is said and done, just a movie about despicable rich people acting jealous, seeking revenge, being greedy, and using others as human playthings.
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Shot by Kim Byung-seo and with stunning art direction and costumes, DANGEROUS LIAISONS looks absolutely incredible in high-definition. Every detail in the skin tones/textures, clothing and sets comes through without flaw, giving a pristine look to the production.
Audio: Mandarin 5.1 HD Surround Sound. The audio transfer is very strong, with clean Mandarin dialogue (aided by English subtitles) and atmospheric sound effects.
Making Of (16:22): This featurette offers interviews and a wealth of on-set footage to give a background on DANGEROUS LIAISONS.
Behind the Scenes (4:57) offers more of the same, with comments from the cast as well as production footage.