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About 20 years ago, filmmaker Stephen Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton adapted the novel Dangerous Liaisons.

From Choderos de Laclos' defining document of 18th-century French literature, they spun a movie that brilliantly contrasted the cynics, who play love as a sport, against the romantics, visibly elevated by the union of two souls. Frears and Hampton's version of Colette's heartrending novels - Chéri and The Return of Chéri - about a young man initiated by an older woman in the teens of the 20th century is surprisingly flat.

Both characters are cool, calculating beauties who treat sex as liquid currency, and get into trouble when they break their cardinal rule of remaining emotionally uninvolved.

features a cast of non-actors bluffing their way through improvised dialogue under the crafty direction of Steven Soderbergh essaying Jean-Luc Godard-lite.

Frears and Hampton (and their gifted collaborators) get a lot right.

The sumptuous Belle Époque interiors are worthy of Manet, the shimmery gardens of Monet.

He went on to play a Nazi guard in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Prince Albert in The Young Victoria and Michelle Pfeiffer’s youthful lover in Chéri.

He is also, you may have gathered, Keira Knightley’s boyfriend, and as such a prime target for gossip columns, websites and paparazzi.

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