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Kristin Scott Thomas,
Many noble families are locked in a chateau due to the French Revolution. The infamous Marquis de Sade is there and is generally shunned by the others. A teen-aged girl befriends him behind her parents back and learns about him and life in general. He initiates her into sexual exploration and leads her to become an independent, sexually-liberated woman. Written by
A "cuddly and charming" version of the Marquis de Sade
This is an extremely competent movie technically. The camera work and direction are excellent and the acting is fine as well--especially the fine acting by Daniel Auteuil as the Marquis. I really thought there were no problems at all with these aspects of the film. Instead, I was a bit annoyed by the way the Marquis was portrayed, as it didn't seem all that honest and seems to be a very revisionistic view of history. In fact, in recent years, the Marquis has undergone a bit of a transformation to a defender of freedom with great insight, not the fat sado-masochist rapist he really was. In a way, this is highly reminiscent of the whitewash given in THE PEOPLE VERSUS LARRY FLINT--where these men are elevated to hero status. Even if you don't think that the Marquis' perversions weren't all that bad (they included rapes and extreme violence), his portrayal in this film as a "sexual social worker" in this prison seems pretty silly. Instead of the violent and selfish Sade, he spends a lot of time carefully grooming a young virgin and slowly helps her to explore her own sensuality. What a nice and kind man. In fact, now that I think about it, this performance reminds me of the man Maurice Chavalier played in GIGI (but without the singing)--a cute older man who loves the ladies. I strongly doubt the real-life Marquis de Sade would have recognized this character at all!
The film, surprisingly, doesn't have a lot of nudity, though what it does show is extremely explicit. Only a maniac would let their kids see this as this is a very adult drama. It's very well-made and pretty entertaining--just not all that truthful. The director admits that the film is largely fictional in the interview among the special features on the DVD I watched. So go ahead and see the film if you'd like--understanding it just isn't very good historically. During the 18th century, sexual libertines were quite accepted in France as they were pretty broad-minded, so despite what the movie implies it wasn't SEX that was the issue, it was the violence and rape that was (and still is) the problem.
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