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Rush gives a tour-de-force performance as history's most infamous sexual adventurer, the Marquis de Sade. A nobleman with a literary flair, the Marquis lives in a madhouse where a beautiful laundry maid (Winslet) smuggles his erotic stories to a printer, defying orders from the asylum's resident priest (Phoenix). The titillating passages whip all of France into a sexual frenzy, until a fiercely conservative doctor (Caine) tries to put an end to the fun, inadvertently stoking the excitement to a fever pitch.
- 3 Featurettes: "Marquis on Marquee," "Creating Charenton," "Dressing the Part"
- Commentary by Screenwriter Doug Wright
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Top Customer Reviews
The Marquis de Sade is a sexual deviant who keeps writing perverse prose. He uses the chambermaid Madeleine (Kate Winslet) to get that prose out to the publisher. The Abbe tries everything he can to get the Marquis to stop, but he simply won't do it. The Abbe takes all his liberties away, but the Marquis manages to find other ways of writing including using wine, his own blood, and eventually his own feces.
This movie was amazing. The acting was very good and the storyline was riveting. Geoffrey Rush has always been a favorite of mine, but after this, he moved to the very top. He was fantastic. I recommend this, however, there are some pretty sexual ideas in here, and I don't recommend it for anyone younger than 16.
If you can stomach this, I can recommend Doug Wright's excellent script, from his own play, and Philip Kaufman's inspired direction, which accomplishes much more toward contrasting intimate pleasures with public conventions than the wasted opportunity that was "Henry and June." Although far more pointed (the "scientific" approach to rehabilitating the mad here consists of devices one expects of De Sade's depraved aristocrats for purposes of torture), and florid with outrageous depictions and juxtapositions, Kaufman now calibrates them precisely for ironic effect, taking note of the unexpectedly more compassionate and enlightened Joaquin Phoenix's Abbe' in tolerating De Sade's writings for purposes of therapy, versus Michael Caine representing Napoleon's anxieties about the moral stability of the nation he rules as emperor, having once been a liberator.
The cast is superb, Kate Winslet convincingly dumbing herself down, as it were, as the lubricious asylum laundress smuggling out De Sade's manuscripts, enjoying their shock value while retaining dignity enough to refuse De Sade's advances, and Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis, imprisoned comfortably enough that he doesn't curb his tongue, or his quill, when Michael Caine as the new order of things comes around.
Only Pasolini's film "Salo" even begins to approach De Sade's writing on its own terms, while the Peter Brook/Royal Shakespeare Company film of "Marat/Sade" goes far in explicating his worldview in the context of historical events. (And one is always entitled to ask, Must we burn Sade, a mere writer, when we tolerate so much actual cruelty and carnage with a shrug?) But this film is honest enough, and, with all its provocations and outrageousness, subtle in how it constructs them, to escape the charge of playing childishly with fire. De Sade has not been exceeded in horror by anything in literature, although often surpassed in real life in our hate-filled, poorly-governed world. His film does not insult the intelligence of those familiar with De Sade, as I had expected. This bar seems low; but the film works on De Sade's terms -- those of his lived existence, if not of the mind-boggling, eye-crossing cruelty of his work -- as well as its own. As long as we permit real savagery in our names, or in anyone else's, out of some vague notion of Necessity or Inevitability, we are in no position to deny Necessity or Inevitability to the human imagination; which, for De Sade as well as for 99.99% of the human race, has always substituted for action.
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