Two assumptions can readily be made about any motion picture centered around the Marquis de Sade. The first is that the material will be of a sexual nature. The second is that the movie will not be a lighthearted romp. Both of these presumptions are true in the case of Philip Kaufman's Quills, arguably the most provocative and best historical melodrama of 2000 (not that it has a great deal of competition). Employing the talents of a topflight cast and working from a screenplay that uses the historical backdrop as a means to deal with issues of contemporary import, Quills offers a thoroughly compelling two hours. Count DonatienAlphonse-Franois de Sade, better known as the Marquis de Sade, lived from 1740 until 1814, although his infamous reputation has survived for nearly two centuries since his remains were scattered. (His name lies at the root of the word “sadism”.) For most of his adult life, the Marquis was in and out of prison, as his penchant for deviant sexual behavior (which typically included torture) continually put him at odds with the law. Following the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille, he was incarcerated in the Charenton Asylum for the Insane, where he resided for a year. After his release, he spent approximately a decade writing scandalous manuscripts and putting on plays before his activities once again landed him at Charenton, where he spent the rest of his life.


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