'Les Liaisons Dangereuses,' 1959

Audiences are more familiar with Stephen Frears' terrific English-language version of the Choderlos de Laclos novel, but Roger Vadim's modern-dress version has just as much of a kick to it. Jeanne Moreau brings a remarkable tragedy-tinged sensuality to the role of the conniving female, who in this take on Laclos is married to her co-conspirator, Valmont. When Gerard Philipe's Valmont seduces Jeanne Valerie's Cecile with the help of a tape recorder, it plays like a considerably revved-up version of "sex, lies and videotape." "A Letter to Three Wives," 1949 In the 1949 domestic satire, "A Letter to Three Wives," Joseph L. Mankiewicz perfected his authorial voice -- one that's biting but also flattering to the sympathetic intelligence. It's too direct and eclectic to be called simply urbane; in this case, you could call it "suburbane," since Mankiewicz uses it so cunningly to dissect suburbia. Narrated by a village seductress (Celeste Holm) who writes a trio of wives to tell them she's run off with one of their husbands, the movie goes into flashback scenes from three marriages, mixing trenchant commentary and soap opera with hilarity and real poignancy. Jeanne Crain is a former servicewoman who met her rich husband during wartime and now, without her uniform, feels out-of-place in his country-club set -- like an ill-rehearsed performer on display. Ann Sothern is a mercenary radio writer clashing with her spouse -- a high school teacher -- over values and egos. And Linda Darnell is a woman from the wrong side of the tracks who demands that a crude tycoon courtier treat her like a lady. Crain, Sothern and Darnell are superb, and the last two receive inspired support from a pair of Douglases: Kirk (as the English teacher) and Paul (as the tycoon).
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