Quills (2000)

QUILLS, the blackest of the (last) year's black comedies and *the* 
anti-family film of the season, opens with an absolutely delicious 
prologue:  close-up on a woman, beautiful dreamy, and her bodice-
ripping... black-hooded executioner.  The time?  1792.  The place?
France.  Suspended above, a guillotine blade still dripping with 
blood; directly below, a basket of freshly chopped heads.  Plus one, 
great, unwashed, cheering crowd.  Drum roll.  Breath held.  Down
comes the blade and up go the hands, covering the eyes.  (Or, if at-
tended by the *really* faint-hearted, out walk the patrons...)  Cut 
to a mental hospital (where else?), years later and where we meet 
the movie's main character, the infamous and presumably long-impri-
soned Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush).  His shocking (read: titil-
lating) tales of sex 'n' violence-- smuggled out and published und-
er the name "Anonymous"-- have outraged the French government and 
their wee leader who calls himself the Emperor.  So, the rest of the 
movie is spent trying to shut De Sade up, first by confiscating his 
writing tools and, later, using far more extreme measures.  There's
also some grab-ass to be played, with the characters' eyeing (and 
more!) that dear, sweet, swell-proportioned TITANIC gal Kate Win-
slet.  She plays an enterprising laundry girl-- she's the smuggler--
and collective objet de lust.  (Others in the story include Joaquin 
Pheonix's compassionate, but increasingly frustrated priest and Mi-
chael Caine's newly arrived "doctor."  Which is French for "tortur-

The technical credits are fine and then some-- sumptuous photograph-
y, resplendent period detail.  (We haven't seen 18th Century palaces
*this* royal since, what, AMADEUS?)  And the graphic shocks do that.  
And there's tart dialogue to spare, from Doug Wright's screenplay, 
based on his play.  The only problem is the tone, established very 
early into the film and which sits somewhere in the vicinity of ex-
aggerated comedy or low-level camp.  Basically, more Monty Python 
than, oh, THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE.  (Those wailing prisoners al-
so all too easily bring back memories of "The Inquisition" from Mel 
Brooks' HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART I!)  So, there's precious little
(if any?) dramatic believability to the story.  Just a lot of hollow 
lathers that the characters work themselves up to, with Rush appear-
ing to enjoy himself the most.  He hams it up with a glowing glee, 
having as high a time as we've seen on-screen since his supporting, 
super-villain turn in the other year's MYSTERY MEN.)  A lass, my fe-
male companion found the subject matter less and less pleasant and 
took a powder at the hour mark.  Being the chivalrous person that I 
like others to think I am, I promptly joined her-- well, after fif-
teen minutes of additional watching-- and'll catch the rest another 
time.  Now go have some sex.  (Rated "R"/123 min.)

Grade: N/A

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: Her Venus Ready For His Heavenly Body

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros