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Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a rich and popular girl at her prep school who has decided to take on mousy and innocent Cecile (Selma Blair) as a project, telling her she wants to help her improve her studies and break out of her sheltered life. In truth, she wants to corrupt the girl into sleeping with many men in revenge for a man named Court Reynolds (Charlie O’Connell) whom she used to be involved but was dumped so he could woo Cecile. On a sunny day in the park by the pond, the two have a picnic and Kathryn listens to Cecile talk about how her new boyfriend disses his old girlfriend. Cecile doesn’t know that she is actually talking about Katherine, and it further inspires the cold-hearted Katheryn to ruin the girl, but more hopefully, Court. She tells Cecile, who admits she has never even been to first base with a boy, that she will teach her what to do. A little hesitant, Cecile agrees, and gets a peck on the lips from Katherine. It feels good. Nice even. Kathryn then explains that first base is when you use your tongue, and details how she will kiss her again but this time, will put her tongue in Cecile’s mouth and that Cecile should massage it with her own. Cecile is a little repulsed by the idea but gives it a try, and as soon as Kathryn’s tender mouth is on hers, she is swept into the passionate kiss but is physically shaken when Kathryn abruptly pulls away.
Directed by Roger Kumble and based on the French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, which itself has been made into two other major motion pictures (Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont), this modern adaptation focuses on a younger generation and steams things up for a more sexually uninhibited audience. This kiss, early in film, stands out among a number of more explicit scenes, and is the most memorable moment in the film as Gellar absolutely reigns supreme over the piece, her Kathryn a master manipulator who plays with Cecile as much as with the audience. When she stops and snaps back to her usual self as if nothing happened, it hurts and we, like Cecile, hang in desperation for more, utterly pulled in by her sexual lure and promise for something more. What’s remarkable is how well the the simple scene works. Kathryn, in her black jacket and pulled back hair is the epitome of sleek and experienced, a young woman who already understands fully the affecting ache of her beauty and the power of her femininity, darkened by the harshness that sex and love can conjure. Cecile is the opposite, a brightly-colored flower, untamed and unaware of her capacity as a female, but soon to learn. At the time, a controversial and highly-charged moment, it still has tremendous allure and keeps fans coming back time and time again. A very replay-worthy moment.
Choderlos de Laclos (novel), Roger Kumble (screenplay)
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon