Sade (France; 100min.)


directed by: Benoît Jacquot
starring: Daniel Auteuil; Marianne Denicourt; Jeanne Balibar
Sade
 
Bob says: "SADE didn't do much for me, and I'm not sure why. Maybe I was putting too much energy into comparing it with QUILLS and Marat/Sade (which is one of my faves). It seemed to be more about the political situation than about Sade himself, which is fine I guess, but I couldn't get into it."
 
Laura says: "Featuring a dangerously seductive performance from the great Daniel Auteuil, SADE covers the same period as Kaufmann's QUILLS with more unsettlingly realistic results. This is the down and dirty telling.

"De Sade arrives at Picpus impervious to the cold reception his reputation garners from the other aristocratic inmates. His outrageous statements in the communal dining hall incite sparring retorts from Emilie, as religious Madame de Lancris (Dominique Reymond, LES DESTINEES) shrinks and the Viscount de Lancris (Jean-Pierre Cassel, LA CEREMONIE) casts a disapproving eye. The democratic De Sade makes friends with gardener Augustin (Jalil Lespert, HUMAN RESOURCES) and receives visits from Sensibile, but soon Emilie also begins to visit on the sly for stimulating discussion.

"The decorum begins to break when Parisians complaints about the smell of death result in the guillotine's move to Picpus' gardens where a trench is dug to hold its victims. The two-faced Viscount's affair with Madame Santero (Jeanne Balibar, VA SAVOIR) becomes obvious, the Chevalier (Vincent Branchet) conducts an openly homosexual lifestyle and De Sade engages the populace for theatrical tableaux. Finally, the face of mortality drives virginal Emilie to De Sade for the conclusion of her education.

"SADE'S best moments are comprised by a trio of one on one conversations between De Sade and Emilie. Auteuil and Le Besco electrify the screen with the thrust and parry of their words. The dark intensity of Auteuil, who proclaims himself too old to engage in his own philosophies, contrasts with the overripe blondness of Le Besco, whom De Sade describes as pastoral. The orgy which takes place when De Sade leads Emilie to a barn, deserted except for the studly peasant Augustin, is more evocative of De Sade's writings than any scene in QUILLS.

"Jacquot's film, however, is an uneven affair. The adapted screenplay by Jacques Fieschi and Bernard Minoret begins by introducing all its characters in a confusing jumble. None of the supporting players are able to flesh out their characters. Sensibile, blandly portrayed by Denicourt, is a victim of brutish treatment at the hands of Fournier, for which she's treated with disdain by De Sade. Colin's jealous Fournier inexplicably continues to allow her to support his nemesis.

"Benoit Delhomme's ( ) photography ranges from brilliantly framed and lit scenes, such as the over the shoulder shots building De Sade and Emilie's scenes like a dance, to clumsily handled zoom shots. The film begins in murk with pale faces floating against utter blackness and ends in ordinary daylight, perhaps to suggest Emilie's illumination. Music is kept to a minimum, with harpsichord strains heard at beginning and end, but sound is used provocatively with the buzzing of a fly suggesting decay and decadence, or perhaps the entrapment of Emilie in De Sade's web. " 3 1/2 cats
 
Michael says: "Treading on much of the same time period of 2000's Geoffrey Rush/Kate Winslet starrer QUILLS, SADE is a French production starring the charismatic Daniel Auteuil. While QUILLS portrayed Sade as madman, SADE paints the writer as more of a free-thinking, intellectual. There was something sweet in SADE that surprised me.

"The bulk of Benoît Jacquot's film follows Sade's time at Picpus, a convent-turned prison hospital where the wealthy can use their finances to buy a more comfortable interment. After a chilly greeting from the other inmates, Sade eventually befriends the Viscount and Madame de Lancris' young, beautiful daughter Emilie. Despite warnings from her mother, Emilie finds herself drawn to the marquis and his shocking ideas. Even more startling, she finds herself agreeing with them... or at least not finding them so shocking. When Parisians begin begin to complain of the smell of corpses filling their streets, the guillotine is moved to the park outside Picpus, This harrowing turn of events puts the inmates in the grip of despair and fear for their lives. This leads Emilie and Sade onto a more intimate relationship... although perhaps not quite what one might expect.

"The draw of the film revolves around the two central performances. Daniel Auteuil is captivating as the irreverent and seductive Sade, and Isild Le Besco is quite believable as the smart, religious young lady who blossoms into a verbal sparring partner for the marquis as their friendship grows. It's quite a performance after the melodramatic turn earlier in the year as one of the leads in GIRLS CAN'T SWIM. Their scenes together are riveting and delightful, and Le Besco's smile when Sade delights Emilie is brilliant.

"Some of the other characters, while interesting, are poorly fleshed out. While I wanted to enjoy the character of Sensible, Sade's long-time mistress who does everything she can to aid him, her relationship with Fournier, a follower of the ruling power, played by Grégoire Colin (BEAU TRAVAIL, SEX IS COMEDY) was fairly two-dimensional. Still, I enjoyed it more than I expected, and much more than QUILLS, which I enjoyed well enough during the running time, but quickly soured upon as time passed. Upon reflection, QUILLS, despite it's grit and filth, seemed much more the Hollywood version of this film, despite SADE's quietly happy ending." 3 1/2 cats
 
Robin says: "By the time of his death in 1814, the Marquis de Sade had spent a third of his life in prison and produced some of the most forward thinking and bawdy satires of his age with such scandalous works as Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue and The Crimes of Love. Director Benoit Jacquot selected a particular time in the life of the aristocrat and author, a time that was the cusp in the marquis's years where he had physically done it all but intellectually was just getting rolling in SADE.

"It's nigh on impossible not to compare Jacquot's work, penned by veteran scripter Jacques Fieschi and Bernard Minoret, to the finely crafted and acted QUILLS with Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet. That film also deals with a period of Sade's later years but from a different, more intimate viewpoint. Not that there isn't a bit of sexual titillation in SADE, but it lacks the straightforward writing and strong performances of the earlier movie. This current tale isn't bad and it certainly has two fine performances by Daniel Auteil as the title character and Isild Le Besco as Emilie, the pretty teen that 50-year old Sade took under his wing, but there are problems.

"The story begins with the aristocrat in prison at Saint-Lazare for being a political agitator, libertine, atheist and 'a highly immoral man.' But, luck and his fortune are with him and Sade is transferred to a new jail, the convert-turned-prison-hospital, Picpus, where the wealthy inmates can buy life's little luxuries through the cooperative prison officials. It is here that Sade meets the Viscount and Madame de Lancris (Jean Pierre Cassel and Dominique Reymond) and their daughter Emilie and the notorious marquis seems to set his cap for the pretty, intelligent young woman. There is more, though, to the relationship as Sade convinces her to become his secretary and proceeds to awaken her intellectually and, particular, sexually, but not in a way you would think.

"If the study concentrated on this complicated, intriguing relationship I may have liked SADE a bit more. There are other stories and statements being made dealing with the oppression and distortion of the values of the Revolution, the conservatism and violence of the Terror (think of Madame Defarge knitting as heads roll) and the sly matchmaking skills of the marquis. The historical touches, like the rise of Robespierre who outlawed atheism and declared that God and the immortal soul are the law of the land, make you laugh at the absurdity and chill at the reality. Another not so historical but typically French incident, straight out of a Monty Python sketch, has an imprisoned aristocrat sitting at dinner in his cell complaining about the vintage of the wine. The scene was a distraction but funny in its stereotype.

"The scope of the events of the tumultuous period in French history, were Madame Guillotine dropped her blade indiscriminately, is sharply contrasted with the subtle relationship between Sade and Emilie. Other personal stories are less compellingly handled, like the sidebar of Sensible (Marianne Denicourt), Sade's dedicated mistress who would do anything for the libertine, including suffering beatings and humiliation from Picpus warder Fournier (Gregoire Colin). Another plot line has the satirist getting permission to put on a play - his kind of play that is (wink, wink) - only to have the warden restrict it to be without dialog. Then the guillotine is brought onto the grounds of the prison hospital and the executions change paradise to purgatory. There are too many things going on in "Sade" for its hundred minute run time.

"The techs are adequate with the dark, murky photography a distraction (but that may have been a problem with the particular print I watched). The reason to see SADE lay with the chemistry and complex relationship between the marquis and Emilie. " 3 cats