The Epicness of the “Color Blind” Scene in Cruel Intentions

There are few movie scenes in late 90s film history with half as much intensity as the one that takes place at the end of act two in Roger Kumble’s Cruel Intentions. After Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) enters a bet with his stepsister, Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar), waging that he can get the headmaster’s daughter, Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon, who has since grown lax in the roles she chooses to take on), to give up her highly publicized virginity to him, he finds himself actually taking an interest in the game he is hunting–for Sebastian, women have always been a game.

Trapped in their web
Trapped in their web
The terms of the bet stipulate that if Sebastian can get Annette to have sex with him before school starts, Kathryn will let him “put it anywhere” (the movie is based on Dangerous Liaisons, hence the incest element), but if he can’t, then he’ll be forced to give Kathryn his most prized possession: his 1956 Jaguar XK140 Roadster. Assuming the task will be a proverbial piece of cake, Sebastian takes his usual sleazoid approach in trying to win over Annette, a flirting style she’s completely immune to.
Sebastian, a game player
Sebastian, a game player
When Sebastian realizes he’s going to have to try a new method in seducing her, he unwittingly starts to become enamored of her, in large part due to her unattainability. As he begins to wear her down, he uses the tactic of calling her a hypocrite for not sleeping with him, accusing, “You spend all your time preaching about waiting for love. Well here it is. Right in front of you, and you’re going to turn your back on it. So I guess we’re just fucked. I’ll move on. But you are going to have to live the rest of your life knowing that you’ve turned your back on love. And that makes you a hypocrite.”
Awaiting her at the end of the escalator
Awaiting her at the end of the escalator
Luring her in with this recrimination, she surrenders to him and starts to undress. Comprehending how deeply he could break her heart by going through with devirginizing her, he pulls away and leaves her vulnerable and confused. It is this moment that leads to quite possibly the most romantic instant in cinema history (perhaps Reese and Ryan being married at that time had something to do with it). After trying to apologize to her for his behavior and finding that she’s gone, he learns from her friend, Greg (pre-Ugly Betty Eric Mabius), that she’s fled to a friend’s estate. He intercepts her at the train station, just as she’s riding up the escalator while none other than Counting Crows’ “Color Blind” plays to accent the magnitude of the mood.
Kathryn, the wrench in Sebastian's plans for love
Kathryn, the wrench in Sebastian’s plans for love
Her surprise at his appearance, followed by their carnal gaze, quells all the anticipation that’s been building for the viewer throughout the entire movie. It is this gesture of Sebastian’s that leads to the long-awaited consummation of their love. If it were a different kind of film, it might have ended there. But alas, the only memorable love story is a tragic one.