“Why should I love God? He strung up his only son like a side of veal. I shudder to think what he’d do to me.” –The Marquis de Sade
I guess that it is pretty obvious by now that I rarely review bad movies (EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s a lie) or even movies that I don’t like, and like a lot. Quills is such a movie, a movie with wonderful acting, a crisp script, and it is as delightfully naughty as it is sobering. This movie is all about sexuality, but does not flood the scene with gratuitous sex, save for Rush’s almost totally nudity (hardly sexy in its context), throughout the latter portion of the film. Quills is also all about freedom of expression and how far some will go to exercise it…or suppress it.
Although Christianity is not the central focus, it takes it in the chops with de Sade’s scathing and blasphemous dialogue, not to mention his spitting on the Bible and devouring a crucifix. Like in The Magdalene Sisters God and his ilk are spared no quarter, exposed in all its hypocritical glory. Not to spoil anything, but I like the part where the Priest has sex with the dead woman the best, it is just that sort of Family Values type of film.
Quills is a fictional account of the Marquis de Sade’s factual interment in Paris’s Chariton Asylum for the Insane at the turn of the 19th century. Geoffrey Rush is magnificent as the Marquis, his tongue (more about that later) as devastating as his pen and when he is robbed of his tools of expression he adopts a hell-bent attitude that must be seen to be believed. Everyone is a prisoner in this movie. De Sade, literally as the repressed pornographer, repressed by the equally imprisoned Abbe (Joaquin Phoenix), who grapples with his own sexual sirens and religious convictions, vividly portrayed in the latter portion of the film.
Dr. Royer-Collard, played woodenly by Michael Caine, is a prisoner of his hypocrisy, sexual ineptness and 3 inch penis. Kate Winslet gives an impressive performance of a virginal girl who is held captive by the allure of The Marquis de Sade, and is his willing accomplice. Only the luscious Simone apparently breaks free from the marital imprisonment of the good Dr. Royer-Collard, her own desires ignited by the forbidden writings of De Sade himself.
Ultimately, this movie turns into a gigantic battle of wills between The Abbe, as instructed by Dr. Toyer-Collard and The Marquis. Like a skilled neurosurgeon, The Marquis gets into everyone’s head, especially the tortured Abbe. Even stripped of everything, and with all his methods of communications (literally ) removed, The Marquis is still able to get the best of The Abbe (twice) in the most bizarre and …ugh…unsavory ways possible. There is no stopping the influence of de Sade and the Asylum is inevitably turned upside-down, Cuckoo Nest style, with the inmates running amok with disastrous consequences for all involved, well almost all.
Quills on DVD is a real treat and a must own for all of us who subscribe to the concept of watching movies being better than going to Church. The commentary track is rather dry and not that great, but the film itself is more than worth the price of the DVD, with sharp detail and a really engaging soundtrack.
8.5/10.0 With the Goatesians rating of highly recommended for all of us who are headed to Hell to meet the likes of the Marquis.
Naughty Quotes and One-Liners:
- “Conversation, like certain portions of the anatomy, always runs more smoothly when lubricated” -Marquis de Sade
- “Are your convictions so fragile they cannot stand in opposition to mine? Is your god so flimsy, so weak! For shame.” -Marquis de Sade
- “You can’t be a proper writer without a touch of madness, can you?” -Madeleine
- “You’ve already stolen my heart… as well as another more prominent organ, south of the Equator.” -Marquis de Sade
- “You’re too tense, darling. You could do with a long, slow screw” -Marquis de Sade (To Abbe Coulmier)
- “I don’t know who you insult more, me or her” -Abbe Coulmier
- “[shouts] Then bugger me! Goddamn you, Abbe! Have you no true sense of my condition? Of its gravity? My writing is involuntary, like the beating of my heart. My constant erection! -Marquis de Sade
- “Some men are beyond redemption” -Dr. Royer-Collard
- “You’re not the anti-Christ. You’re only a malcontent who knows how to spell.” -Abbe Coulmier
- “Ah, you’ve come to read my trousers” -Marquis de Sade