The third film adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' epistolary masterpiece Les Liaisons Dangereuses (following Roger Vadim's 1957 modern-dress version, and Stephen Frears' 1988 treatment of Christopher Hampton's stage adaptation), Milo Forman's VALMONT is the weakest version so far,

suffering from willfully wrongheaded casting, a comic-strip "free" adaptation by former Luis Bunuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere, and Forman's heavy-handed direction of material that requires the most sophisticated glancing touch. Forman and Carriere focus primarily on the eponymous Valmont

(Colin Firth, who lacks the charismatic bravado and sexual menace for the role), ending the film after his death in a duel and omitting both the demise of his amorous victim, Mme. de Tourvel (a too tentative Meg Tilly), and Laclos' audience-gratifying comeuppance for the scheming Marquise de

Merteuil (Annette Bening in an annoyingly arch turn). The filmmakers' choice throws the whole ornately devised mechanism of Laclos' story--an unrelenting battle of wit and seduction between Valmont and Merteuil--completely off. With its ineffectual performers uttering Carriere's slovenly dialog,

VALMONT plays like a period sex romp, its concerns reduced to the level of who sleeps with whom and who gets dumped. The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design.