DANGEROUS LIAISONS (2012)
At a charity ball for refugees from the Japanese-occupied Northeast in the tumultuous 'Paris of the East', glamorous Shanghai, socialite and libertine Mo Jieyu (Cecilia Cheung) strikes a deal with her ex-lover, the handsome playboy Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun). Mo's most recent tycoon lover has dropped her for a virginal schoolgirl. If Xie takes the girl's virginity, he'll make a laughing stock out of the tycoon. But Xie has his eyes on a different prize - the virtuous widow Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi). They make a bet that if he can seduce the innocent and virtuous widow, Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi), Mo will give herself to Xie.
But the game becomes increasingly dangerous as Xie falls in love with Du. Mo is most displeased; the liaisons now lead them all towards tragic and shocking consequences.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Stephen Frears made the definitive adaptation of this work (in 1988) from a Christopher Hampton screenplay - but the brilliance of the screenplay aside, Frears consummated it by perfect casting: Glenn Close as the manipulative ex-lover of the John Malkovich womaniser, and Michelle Pfeiffer as the virtuous widow he seduces - and falls for. It won three Oscars.
I know comparisons are odious, but that's what film critics do. This reset version from the original 18th century Paris to early 20th century Shanghai certainly looks fabulous, and the cast are all great. But maybe they're not quite the right cast for the characters. Of course, that's my bias. The age of the actors has a lot to do with it. Close and Malkovich were in their 30s as the world weary, yet still vulnerable characters who play seduction games, double cross each other and feel the sting of love even as they deny their vulnerability to it. That was the film's own great sting.
Still, Cecilia Cheung is pretty sharp as Mo, the manipulative character played by Glenn Close. And Jang Dong-gun is a charismatic playboy (the John Malkovich character), while Ziyi Zhang as the widow Du Fenyu is outstanding as usual, capable of conveying her most inner feelings economically with a single look.
Of course the cultural setting moves from Paris to Shanghai and a different period: this is less problematic as the hedonism and social excess remain the backdrop. It's a valid idea, to set it in 1930s Shanghai, and the story still resonates. Just a bit less. And that's my other reservation: this screenplay is less barbed, less cruel, more banal than is Hampton's.
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DANGEROUS LIAISONS (M)
(China/ S.Korea/Sing, 2012)
CAST: Ziyi Zhang, Dong-gun Jang, Cecilia Cheung, Shawn Du, Lisa Lu
PRODUCER: Wai Ming Chen
DIRECTOR: Jin-ho Hur
SCRIPT: Geling Yan (novel by Choderlos de Laclos)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Byung-seo Kim
EDITOR: Na-young Nam
MUSIC: Sung-woo Jo
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Greenlight Releasing
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 4, 2012