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Movie Review

Quills

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content including dialogue, violence and language

Reviewed by: Cad Wallander
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr. 4 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Joaquin Phoenix and Kate Winslet in “Quills”
Featuring: Geoffrey Rush, Joaquin Phoenix, Kate Winslet, Michael Caine, Michael Jenn
Director: Philip Kaufman
Producer: Mark Huffam, Julia Chasman, Nick Wechsler, Peter Kaufman
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Synopsis: (from the producer)… A fictional work that reconstructs the unknown fate of the Marquis de Sade, the writer and sexual deviant who was imprisoned in Charenton Asylum for the last 10 years of his life, QUILLS is a creative period piece from director Philip Kaufman (THE RIGHT STUFF). In the film, the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) befriends the director of the asylum, Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), and both share affections with the asylum laundress, Madeleine (Kate Winslet). But when Napoleon sends in a doctor (Michael Caine) to cure the Marquis of his supposed madness, the Marquis’s rebellious character only grows stronger.

Marquis de Sade often stated that people who act moralistically have deeper impulses that run even darker than the “perverts” or “heathen.” Witness Michael Caine’s character, a cruel (dare we say sadistic?) latter-day psychologist. He has been sent by one Napoleon to “cure” de Sade of his perversions. Well, the good doctor selects a young teen from the nunnery to take (literally) as his wife. The moralist doctor rapes the young virgin their first night in bed. Dark forces indeed. Graphic and deviant sexuality is rampant in “Quills”.

De Sade’s appeal to the masses was his audacity with how he approached taboo, yet natural instincts, chiefly sexuality. He realized that a lot of western culture’s preoccupation with the taboo stems from it being labelled as such in the first place.

Now Jesus would not have liked de Sade’s raving lust, but one senses that Christ would have identified with the man, just as he did with Mary Magdelene. However, St. Paul surely would have condemned this filthy man and his filthy mind. As such, so must I.


Viewer Comments
When Hollywood sings the praises of Larry Flint, calling him a defender of the First Amendment, an apologia of the Marquis de Sade could not be far behind. The marquis was a French aristocrat who survived the French Revolution even though he did not believe in the fraternity or the equality of men that the Revolutionaries espoused. He hated the common man. He had special contempt for the common woman. To him a woman was nothing more than, in his terms, an instrument of voluptuousness. The relationship between Sade and the maid played by Kate Winslet in the film makes no dramatic or historic sense. Why would her murder bother him? He encouraged mutilation and murder when mere perversion no longer excited the practitioner.

Sade was successful in his time because the French revolutionaries encouraged sexual freedom and pornography, even amongst the clergy. Sade understood where such a breakdown in morals would lead. He foresaw the social terror and the moral corruption that characterized the French Revolution. Sade knew that sexual liberation has elements of both freedom and slavery (bondage and sadomasochism always thrive in such an environment), and he pursued those elements to their logical conclusions: destruction and death.

So where is the historic Sade in “Quills”? I didn’t see him. All I saw was a sappy yarn about a dedicated and inspired writer who sacrificed himself to his art. The real marquis did not believe in self-sacrifice. He only believed in sacrificing others-and the bodily parts of others-for his own pleasure. The movie is nonsense. It contradicts itself constantly, focuses on the artist’s ideology and motivation (a thinly veiled polemic of the filmmaker’s own beliefs) more than on the content and significance of the artist’s work, and, like every other Hollywood product, uses the all-too-easy ploy of setting up a religious figure (in this case, a religious psychologist, played by Michael Caine) as the villain. My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2]
—Jim O’Neill, age 47
…his last name is what we use to describe someone who is sexually deviant (sadistic).
—Lori Arroyo, age 25
…In the face of one of the cruelest and hypocritical of torturers De Sade doesn’t fold. He doesn’t break. He writes even when forbidden to, he finds a way to get of his soul that which he must. Of course De Sade is an odd fellow, with odd notions, but to hide from his atheism would be a crime and a lie. During this period in French history atheism is really the norm. In fact, a good case could be made that it is still the case in France. The point is that it is a reality that De Sade shunned God and said some awful things about God. And if one is to make a film about a person then we must not single out only the things we want and reject those things which offend us…
—Max D., age 27, non-Christian
Movie Critics
…enough abuse and vulgarity on display here to satiate a stadium full of Howard Stern fans…
—CNN
…an extreme amount of sexually related material… many sexual/erotic/sadistic passages (read aloud)…
—ScreenIt!
…not only does QUILLS seem to side with De Sade’s blasphemous attacks on God and Jesus Christ in the story, it also contains many scenes of sexual perversion, gruesome violence and explicit nudity…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide