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Quills

Year: 2000
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Phillip Kaufman
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Caine, Amelia Warner
Based not on the actual life of the Marquis de Sade but a stageplay that depicted several aspects of him. We don't see any of the Marquis after whom the sexual practice is named - Geoffrey Rush plays him more just like an oversexed old man.

Confined to an insane asylum where the tolerant priest in charge, du Coulmier (Phoenix) treats him as more a friend, de Sade is in fact the antagonist of the tale, continually trying to push the flexible boundaries that surround his cushy confinement while he pens erotic stories that are snuck out for publication thanks to his accomplice, the pretty laundress Madeline (Winslet).

Frustrated at every turn in his insistence that the Marquis not rock the boat for his own good, du Coulmier has no choice but to gradually strip away de Sade's privileges until he's reduced writing on the wall with his own excrement in a filthy basement.

While du Coulmier tries to keep things under control the authorities threaten to bring in the fearsome Dr Royer-Collard (Caine), a brutal torturer who'll whip the institution into shape through terror and spell the end of de Sade and his underground literary career.

The movie is very symbolic of the modern censorship debate; de Sade is a libertine who lives only for pleasure and doesn't really want to hurt anybody but treats life with bawdy humour, and Royer-Collard is a Christian Right-style repressed puritan who wants to stamp out everything base and sexual. Like the hypocrites most right wing Christians are assumed to be, he collects his young wife-to-be (Warner) from the nunnery that's groomed her top be his wife when she's still far too young for him, treating her with coldness and raping her on their first night together, repressed fear and hatred of sexuality given flesh.

It's a little simplistic, but the story rolls along and some very accomplished performers give it everything they've got.

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