Dangerous Liaisons | 1988
This lush adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play of Choderlos de Laclos' novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, really benefits from its authentic period locations around France – mostly within easy travelling distance of Paris.
The hugely successful Royal Shakespeare Company production (which transferred from London to Broadway) kept the novel’s original French title but, on the assumption that foreign movies are box office poison in the US, the film uses a woodenly literal translation.
It was filmed largely at the Chateau de Champs-sur-Marne, 31 rue de Paris, Champs-Sur-Marne, overlooking the River Marne about twelve miles east of Paris.
The 18th century chateau was rented by Madame de Pompadour, who spent a small fortune on improvements (the original owner, who had gone bankrupt, keeled over and died on its steps as he was about to be arrested). Champs-sur-Marne was also seen in the Merchant-Ivory production Jefferson In Paris, Patrice Leconte’s Ridicule and Roland Joffé’s Vatel. It’s currently closed (until Spring 2013) for renovations.
The theatre, where Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) shows more interest in the audience than the performance, is the 18th century Theatre Montansier, 13 rue des Réservoirs in Versailles, close to the Palace of Versailles. It’s also where Merteuil finally realises that society has turned against her.
The home of sly seducer the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) is Château de Neuville, 22 rue Laverdy, Gambais. A 16th century chateau, it fell into disrepair, and was even occupied by German and American soldiers during the two World Wars, until being bought and restored in the Sixties. You can hire the chateau, which was also featured in Jacques Demy’s 1970 musical fairytale Peau d’Ane, with Catherine Deneuve, and Ridicule again, for your wedding.
The country estate of Valmont’s aunt, of Mme de Rosemonde (Mildred Natwick), is Chateau Maisons-Lafitte, a superb 17th century French Renaissance chateau in the town of Maisons-Lafitte, about twelve miles northwest of Paris, in which Louis XIV, XV and XVI stayed.
The virginal Cecile (Uma Thurman) is cloistered away in the Abbaye du Moncel in Pontpoint. This is also the site of the local village, where the miraculously transformed Valmont is spied demonstrating his generosity to the poor. The Abbey was established in 1309 by Philippe Le Bel, and the convent buildings were built for the Poor Clares in 1337. Pontpoint is about 15 miles north of Paris, in Picardie.
More of the film’s gorgeous interiors were filmed in Chateau de Lésigny, rue de la Croix, Lésigny (about 15 miles southeast of Paris); Chateau de Saussay, Ballancourt-sur-Essonne, in the valley of the river Essonne between Corbeil and La Ferté-Alais (about 20 miles south of Paris); and Chateau de Guermantes in Lagny-sur-Marne, which supplied the interior of Drax’s mansion in the 1979 Bond movie Moonraker, as well as appearing in Philippe de Broca’s 1962 Cartouche and Andrzej Wajda’s epic Danton, with Gerard Depardieu). It’s not open to the public but is used as a conference centre.
The burned-out Valmont half-heartedly fights a fateful duel with Chevalier Danceny (Keanu Reeves) beneath the walls of Chateau de Vincennes, 1 Rue Robert Giraudineau, Vincennes, east of Paris. Built in the 14th century, under Charles V, Vincennes is one of the largest castles in Europe, and has its fair share of historic associations. Its donjon tower, at 52 meters high, is the tallest medieval fortified structure in Europe. The English monarch Henry V died here (of dysentery) in 1422; for seven years the Marquis de Sade was imprisoned within its walls and, in 1917, suspected spy Mata Hari was executed here by firing squad.