Thursday, 13 October 2011

Forgotten Characters 4.6

Another week to single out one of those good performances which somehow seem to have fallen out of common knowledge, leaving an intriguing character forgotten character lost in the dust.
An expansive cast of actors doing good work is an assured way to get lost in the shuffle and end up becoming forgotten. And, it’s not that the cast surrounding this forgotten character was that expansive but with the constant betrayals going back and forth the character’s purpose as a plot propellant made it become a bit ignored, which is unfortunate, considering how well the role is played. So, it’s left for me to shine a light on

Swoosie Kurtz in Dangerous Liaisons

as Madame de Volanges
Trivia fans would know that Swoosie Kurtz was the only actor to play a role – the same role – in the Frears/Hampton Dangerous Liaisons as well as the Roger Kumble teen adaptation. Madame de Volanges functions somewhat as an emissary and plot-point. She’s Madame de Merteuil’s cousin and Cecile’s mother – the young girl Valmont will ravish, she’s at the manor where Valmont will overwhelm Madame de Tourvel and she keeps popping at inopportune moments to be critical. Immediately after that delicious opening scene (examined here) we switch to Merteuil’s house where Madame de Volanges and Cecile are.
Considering how uninhibited her Lily in Pushing Daisies is, it’s humorous watching young Swoosie play such a stuffy character. From our first shot of her she seems overly pretentious, which she is. When Merteuil announces that Valmont is on his way up she’s almost affronted.

You receive him, do you?

“Yes. We all do,” is the response. And, it’s one not to be taken lightly.

Monsieur le Vicomt de Valmont, my child, whom you very probably don’t remember except that he is conspicuously charming, never opens his mouth without first calculating what damage he can do.

Cecile, is baffled as to why he’s received, then… and I love Swoosie’s nervous repose as she responds.

Everyone receives him.

It’s just one of the script’s many double entendre. We shall learn, eventually, that Volanges was once in a tryst with Valmont which probably explains why she seems so uneasy when he arrives. Dialogue is important in this film, but Volanges character depends less on her dialogue and more on the tenseness Swoosie establishes so beautifully.

She keeps on appearing in and out of the narrative, unaware of what the main players are up to but still managing to precipitate some humorous and often ironic bits. She’s the reciter of deliciously tongue-in-cheek lines (unaware to her) like the one to Merteuil:
You have such a good influence on her.

I suppose, in reality, Swoosie becomes forgotten because she’s just an envoy in a film of preys and predators. But, her Madame de Volange is such a delightful creation it’s a shame she’s not remembered more oft.

Were you distracted by all the heavyweights in Dangerous Liaisons or do you remember Swoosie’s Volanges?
Previously Forgotten this season...
John Krasinski's Harley in It's Complicated
Ben Affleck's Ned in Shakespeare in Love
Lucy Liu's O-Ren in Kill Bill Vol. 1
Patricia Clarkson's Judy in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Kelly Bishop's Marjorie in Dirty Dancing

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