Country: USA, Germany, UK
Director: Philip Kaufman
Writers: Doug Wright
Music: Stephen Warbeck
Cinematography: Rogier Stoffers
It is an immoral story, a semi-fictional biography film about the notorious pornography writer Marquis De Sade in Napoleonic era, which is doomed to be controversial. As for me, I have never read his works and I don’t feel any impulsion to read them after watching the film. Strangely, when I took out the DVD out of my mac, I generally felt nothing, my head was empty. I must say that the film doesn’t impress me much even it is full of erotic remarks and scenes, tortures, even death. One side it proves my resistance towards explicit porn and violence has been exalted to a new level (maybe I am a little bit exaggerated, anyway it is not a creepy horror film); on the other hand it states that the film is in lack of an universal empathy, especially towards non-Catholics like me (as if there is no God, sex is not quite a speechless sin at all). In my mind’s eye, the story is erotic in an unsexy way, even with Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix in their primes (as for Geoffrey, his portrayal of Sade is brave and pathetic at the same time, but I will not call it sexy).
So if I just take out the erotic coat wore by the film, what remains is a banal story of fighting against the national superstructure, attached with the struggle with one’s belief, which suddenly makes the film not so glamorous as before. Then I realize that it is not the film’s fault, I think still millions of people will be interested in the film itself. On the premise that I don’t give too much credit to sex, the film obviously is not my cup of tea. Also too many unnecessary close-ups make the film look more like an acting-competition play than a decent film.
However the settings and costumes of the film is exquisite and precise, plus a strong performances from a memorable cast (Geoffrey got an Oscar nomination as a leading actor, both art-direction and costume were also got nominated as well, surprisingly to see a young and fangless Stephen Moyer), which merits some accomplishment. Finally I must express my sympathy to Michael Caine, who offered a heartless and villainous performance, but was shamefully overlooked during the award season in 2000.