Friday, June 29, 2012

Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons

Great Glenn received her fifth unsuccessful Oscar nomination for playing Marquise de Merteuil, a bored and vicious aristocrat in the adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos's novel, Dangerous Liaisons. After you fail to win the Oscar for a smash hit, which becomes a classic in a second and you get your fifth nomination, you can expect some goodwill from the Academy and yet Great Glenn, the greatest of them all, has been really unlucky at the Academy Awards. I'm 100% sure that if the precursor awards had been on her side, she would have won, hands down (it's always those damn precursor awards that prevent her from winning the Oscar, I tell you). I suppose she was second even this way and was actually really threatening Jodie Foster's win. Since then, Jodie has won Oscars, Great Glenn zero. Discuss. :)

Dangerous Liaisons is simply one of the best movies ever made, simple as that. I don't like to often use this word, but this movie is just perfect. Not only did it deserve to win for all its nominations, it also should have earned John Malkovich an Oscar for the best male performance of 1988 (by far). Also, the fact that the Oscar field that year was so damn weak makes Dangerous Liaison's case even more puzzling. And Michelle... my goodness, is that woman amazing and very underrated here! Honestly both hers and Malkovich's performances left me breathless on their own right and they cannot even contend for being my favorite performance in this film (OK, we all knew awho it would be). 

I don't even start to talk about how and why I love Great Glenn. I don't give a fuck if it's a popular thing to do, I absolutely adore her, and yes, I think SHE is the greatest living actress who can do no wrong and who's probably one of the most underrated performers. There isn't a performance of hers that doesn't blow my socks off. No matter if it's Alex Forrest or Patty Hewes, Great Glenn's constant, dazzling greatness and magnetic personality shines through the scene. Each and every movement of hers suggest intelligence, confidence and natural greatness. I suppose why I love her to such an extent is down to the fact that her typical stage energy adds something unusual and infinitely amazing to her performances.

And Marquise de Merteuil is the crowning achievement of Great Glenn's whole brilliant career. Although I expected to adore her here and find her amazing (I had already seen the movie, like, six times), I wasn't prepared to be this blown away. It actually took me some time to finally really get this performance and what this whole character is all about. Now all the negative comments I've read about her have become clear. The Marquise is manipulative. True. Playing manipulative is easy. Maybe. Was this part easy? Hell no. Hell no. In the Marquise, Great Glenn created a fascinating, amazing and endlessly intriguing character, with much more under the surface than one would initially expect and Great Glenn reveals all the layers of the Marquise in the most fascinating and mysterious way one can imagine.

It's also amazing to me how Great Glenn added a touch of delicate humor to her performance. Bitchiness is always very delicious if done properly, and boy does Great Glenn nail it: her acidic dialogues are delivered as sharply by her as a razor blade. Great Glenn doesn't miss one single opportunity to kick ass and entertain the viewer. She's vivid, enjoyable, fascinating and utterly irresistable. Her work's just like great chocolate: smooth, delicious and in the end, it's nothing but sheer guilty pleasure. So far I would say that this part was very easy, especially for an actress of Great Glenn's stature.

However, what constantly fascinates me about this performance is Great Glenn's wonderful ability to portray the decline of not only the Marquise, but also a whole society and an era. At one point,  Great Glenn delivers a  very sinister and disturbing line: the century is coming to its end very soon. She fills this simple, almost meaningless sentence with so many meanings, making it probably the very essence of her movie. It seems like the Marquise and the Vicomte are trying to enjoy their brief time left in this world. Their life (on the outside) is limited by the rules of society and the daily routines, just like it's shown at the beginning of the movie. It's just like watching actors prepare for their performances. These bored aristocrats do nothing but constantly putting on shows for each other. 

Also, Great Glenn brilliantly uses her face to portray the viciousness of the Marquise. One blink can add multiple layers to a simple sentence and you just keep marvelling at how strong of an effect she can have on you with one look (no pun intended; or yes... maybe). She tells everything with her strange, assymetric eyes, her mouth and her powdered face. This makes the screen almost explode and also makes her a magnetic, luminous presence. No matter how vicious and evil she is, you just keep pulling for the Marquise. 

However, the only vulnerable side of the Marquise is her desire for Valmont. She says "It's the only time I've been controlled by my desire". It's no surprise that the chemistry between Great Glenn and Malkovich is just brilliant. They are both trying to control one another and it seems as if the two of them are in fact competing with each other. They are allies, friends, lovers, adversaries, even enemies. They can only be hurt by each other and yet both actors show how much these people depend on each other. Great Glenn shows it wonderfully that the Marquise is actually jealous and even a bit broken about the special love the Vicomte feels for Madame de Tourvel. You can see her sorrow when she leans against the wall, breathing. It's one of those rare moments when Great Glenn reveals the insecurities of the Marquise. 

Another proof is the long monologue where the Marquise reveals how she "invented" herself. Not only is it the highlight and the best scene of the Great Glenn in this particular movie, but it's also up there with one of her best acted moments of her whole career. Each and every word of hers made me feel like I was hit by a sightseeing bus. Great Glenn's acting seems so subtle, cold or even calculating and yet for me, it only proves how passionate she is in her acting. Although her tools are subtle and she's quite technical, there's something astonishingly real and very emotional about this part, very much like  in the case of Jane Fonda in Klute. Both of them show women deformed by society's expectation and both actresses put on seemingly calculated and atrificial performances in order to show how these women are constantly putting on performances.

Also, I found it really astonishing how we were able to look inside the head of the Marquise while Great Glenn was able to maintain the mysterious aura of the character. We understand the hows of this woman, but Great Glenn only gives us hints about why she acts this way (again, very much like Jane in Klute). And both of them are able to communicate the moral of story through their character, without being obvious or predictable. Both ladies are just showing how their respective societies' downfall affects these two women,  who live under very different circumstances.

The huge breakdown of the Marquise towards the end after the death of we-all-know-who seems extremely odd and out of place in the movie and yet considering the things mentioned above, it seems perfectly reasonable. The calculated surface disappears and all that remains is an overwhelming amount of emotions. I always thought the fact that Great Glenn's trying to rip off her own clothes was a symbol of trying to leave the rules of society behind her.

And yes I might have to withdraw my earlier statement. The conclusion of Great Glenn's performance is just pure perfection and it's just as brilliant as her big monologue (Great Glenn has always thought that this ending was one of the most difficult scenes for her). But boy, was she able to pull it off! She doesn't say a single word and yet she was able to affect you only by playing with her face. We can see a total meltdown, a  truly disturbing danse macabre: eventually, the society that created the Marquise destroys her as well and this downfall becomes incredibly terrifying thanks to Great Glenn. The directing was 100% behind her, but in the end, it was all up to Great Glenn if the movie turns out to be a masterpiece or just a great effort, because she could have screwed its effect up by one false movement in those final moments. However, she was able to balance the emotions incredibly and eventually created not only a fabulous character, but also made the whole movie what it is: a real masterpiece.

So in the end, amazing or fantastic or career-best don't even begin to describe how brilliant Great Glenn is as Marquise de Merteuil. Each and every movement of hers is so great that I still keep marvelling at it. Naturally, the Academy refused to acknowledge this earth-shattering performance with an Oscar win and yet that tells something about the Academy itself instead of Great Glenn who's simply electrifying. A true masterclass in acting, which makes me think if I should call Great Glenn Brilliant Glenn or Greatest Glenn from now on. Again, the rating is just wasted.

What do you think? I already painted a red spot on my shirt. 


Nues20 said...

Okay Okay.
Now I am POSITIVE Glenn is going to win.
I think that it is definitely the best performance Great Glenn has ever given and I agree the film is perfect.
Streep offers a tough challenge and her film isn't behind her as much as Glenn's is.
1988 is so interesting to me because imo Great Glenn and Meryl give their best performances ever.

Nues20 said...

Btw my fave scene of Glenn's as well as the breakdown scene is when she's talking to Vicomte about how she made herself a strong woman.
She is just amazing in this very complex part.

mrripley said...

One of my faves EVER,totally agrre on that win she is bound to get,shame in 88 because foster won again in 91 so they could have given glenn her oscar and weaver hers in support and this actress blogging may be happier place.ha ha.

Fritz said...

Stunning performance!!!

dinasztie said...

mrripley: My BSA pick would be Michelle, but Siggy is almost as great. Siggy shoulda won for Aliens, IMO.

Don't get me started on Great Glenn. I'm gonna be hated. :-)

joe burns said...

Great review!!! She is fantastic, though I should probably rewatch her because my memory of her is a little fuzzy!

But she will win, I'm sure..

I think Jodie won because her performance is more showier, not that's bad, but Close's is very subtle. And Jodie was the newcomer ingenue who they wanted to reward. The only other contender was Melanie, who could have won if they liked Working Girl enough, but they didn't, sooooo...

Anonymous said...

Jodie Foster 'newcomer ingenue'??? She was everything but. The fact she lost (undeservedly) to Beatrice Straight in '76 and that she was veteran greatly helped her. Also she had great comeback story (Hinckley etc)

Louis Morgan said...

Well I think we are probably going to have a sequential winner for you.

dinasztie said...

Joe: I also highly doubt it that Jodie was a newcomer. In fact, she was more of a veteran than Great Glenn.

Derek Bowman said...

I think Jodie won because she was a rare combo of two of the Academy's favorite things: a young ingenue and a Hollywood veteran at the same time.

I would place poor Glenn second probably, then Melanie. Siggy split her vote and Meryl had two (recently won) Oscars and they didn't love her film, an unlucky combo.

Great review! I caught a few minutes of this the other day and was immediately drawn in, so I'm excited to actually watch this one. Someday.

Nues20 said...

I agree about Jodie being a veteran.
Interesting point about Hinckley...
Do we think this was possibly sympathy for Jodie after that?

JC said...

Powerful, powerful, powerful.

She definitely came in second. Was in a BP nominee, overdue, and she's Glenn Close :))

vinnieh said...

Great write up on an amazing performance. The scene where she removes her make up is outstanding.

dinasztie said...

Thanks vinnieh! :) Yes, it is.

Milagros said...

Yes, I wholeheartily agree that Dangerous Liaisons is one of the best films ever made. Not only because of Ms. Close´s performance, but also beacause of Mr. Malkovich´s and Ms.Pfeiffer´s astonishing interpretations. I have never understood why these people were not given an oscar at the time. I have seen the film several times. Yesterday, I played it twice for my students, and it still keeps giving me goose-bumps!

Anonymous said...

If I am not wrong, Glenn Close was not even nominated for Golden Globe and other major awards for her performance in Dangerous Liaison.

Lady Amalthea said...

This morning, personal events triggered a haunting memory of Glenn Close in this movie; specifically the scene where she is wiping off her makeup. Her defeat... her pain and devastation laid bare. This scene endeared Glenn Close to me like nothing else ever could.