Director: Philip Kaufman
Year Released: 2000
I always have been an admirer of the Marquis De Sade, and I must admit Geoffrey Rush is the guy to play the part. It's historically fallible - I don't recall De Sade ever being tortured to death - but intriguing nonetheless; director Kaufman seems to have nailed the filthy setting (and the Marquis' depraved/enlightened condition) through muted tones and crumbling, decrepit sets. For once I am not bothered by Joaquin Phoenix - the film's "good guy" priest - whose character defends De Sade and encourages him put on his plays for the taboo-obsessed bourgeois. The plot is somewhat negligible (plot points are dealt with haphazardly) - what Kaufman's targeting is De Sade-as-symbol, using the controversial texts to make a statement about censorship and the power of words in culture. Kaufman has always been intrigued by heavy spoonfuls sexuality - he directed the highly regarded Unbearable Lightness of Being - and what better patron of the field than Mr. Sadistical, himself? It's cheerily flamboyant (if a tad too much so in some parts) and expertly performed; Michael Caine, who is the "antagonist," willingly plays a somewhat limited role.