Shanghai-set 'Dangerous Liaisons' seduces Cannes

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Take a timeless French classic, "Dangerous Liaisons", and whisk it to 1930s Shanghai: a South Korean director pulled off the unlikely stunt in Cannes on Thursday.

"It's a delightful reworking of 'Dangerous Liaisons', a cruel fable with two wonderful actresses," said Edouard Waintrop who picked the selection at the Directors' Fortnight sidebar section of the festival.

The classic 18th-century epistolary novel by Choderlos de Laclos tells the story of two ex-lovers, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, who use sex as a weapon to humiliate others in a perverse form of rivalry.

But their cruel games hit a rock when the marquise dares Valmont to seduce a deeply virtuous widow, named Madame de Tourvel.

The marquise, renamed Madam Mo, is played by Hong-Kong actress Cecilia Cheung, opposite Zhang Ziyi -- who starred in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" -- as de Tourvel.

Korean director Hur Jin-ho set the Chinese-language film in a sumptuously recreated interwar Shanghai, where the Valmont character -- renamed Xie Yifan and played by South Korea's Jang Dong-gun -- works his way from bedroom to opulent bedroom.

The director said he was contacted by Chinese producers three years ago for the project.

"My Chinese is not very good, but the subject interests me so much that I found the courage to overcome the language barrier," he said after the first screening of the film in Cannes.

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