Film, Action and adventure

Time Out says

It's true that the Marquis de Sade was held at the Charenton asylum, diagnosed with 'Libertine dementia', that he wrote plays there, and came into contact with a laundry maid (Winslet), the Abbé Coulmier (Phoenix) and Dr Royer-Collard (Caine). But scenarist Wright, adapting his own play, has freely imagined what passed between them in terms of ribald comedy and Grand Guignol horror. Rush has a whale of a time as Sade, a debauched rake with a permanent hard-on, playing sly devil's advocate to the Abbé's zealous innocent. The hypocritical Royer-Collard ups the ante when he institutes a new, repressive regime, confiscating the Marquis's writing instruments. Announcing itself as 'a naughty little tale', the film cultivates an air of sardonic detachment beneath a lascivious leer. It pokes at sexual taboos - it's pretty subversive, considering - but sexuality and creativity are indelibly linked, and its true subject is expression, repression and catharsis. If that sounds schematic, the script's frank libertarian agenda is muddied by Sade's perversity. On some bedrock level he relishes his own degradation. But it's the artist's irrefutable compulsion to write which fuels the most powerful sequence, as Sade turns in on himself for material in the basest sense of the word, bringing body and soul together at the last.

By: TCh


Release details

124 mins

Cast and crew

Philip Kaufman
Doug Wright
Geoffrey Rush
Kate Winslet
Joaquin Phoenix
Michael Caine
Billie Whitelaw
Patrick Malahide
Amelia Warner
Jane Menelaus
Stephen Moyer
Edward Tudor-Pole
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