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`by Benoît Jacquot

"Oui, Constance, c'est à toi que j'adresse cet ouvrage, à la fois l'exemple et l'honneur de ton sexe réunissant à l'âme la plus sensible l'esprit le plus juste et le mieux éclairé, ce n'est qu'à toi qu'il appartient de connaître la douceur des larmes qu'arrache la vertu malheureuse..."
Justine - dédicace à Marie-Constance Quesnet

A couple of French revs:

l'Opinion indépendante

The Official Site
Questa rece in italiano

writing tools
An Author doesn't live by his penis alone

take care of Monsieur de Sade
The kiss of gratitude

...oh I do beg your pardon, I must have dozed off. Actually, no, I was pondering on the incredible and unique chance I've had of viewing this so longed-for movie on my beloved Marquis. Not in Venice, bubbly circus redundant with critics and scoundrels, nor in Cannes or Berlin, with such like busy bees, but in the heart of "Sadian" territory, juste à coté, so to speak.

By now I think you've got it, yes, I have a soft spot for Sade and I know all of his work and life down to the tiniest detail (as my old travel companion can sad-ly testify!); from this you may easily surmise with what frame of mind I approached this movie: a thousand apprehensions, a mountain of doubts and an ocean of expectations, all justified by the director's choice of one of my most favorite actors for the "divine" role.

Indeed, I was not disappointed. Or rather, my apprehensions have been nicely placated: what reeled in front of my eyes was the "free-thinker" Sade, as some reviews had already forwarned me of. An unusual kind of Sade by all accounts (not a fanatic, not an irate madman, not even a lusty old bugger, just pure and simple atheist aristocrat), first of all his phisique. A marvellous and very charming actor, Daniel Auteuil has got all it takes in order to portray the Divine Marquis, save for "le phisique du role": what he lacks, of course, are the deep blue eyes and blond hair, not to mention at least 30 pounds around the waist, trademark of the later (citoyen) Sade.

And yet, one should not be misled by such a contrast: physical difference sets the tone and the focus of the movie right from the first sequences, by an approach which attempts to deviate (the verbal choice here is not chancy) from the customary biographical slavery.

What this movies tries to accomplish (at least, in the eyes of this witness) is a sort of Sadian anthology (numerous verbatim quotations from the Marquis' correspondence in the mouth of Auteuil: "I am not a criminal," "a word from me, a word would have sufficed to see their throats slashed, but no, I shushed and they were saved: see how I venge myself!" etc.), let's say a textbook for Sadian Philosophy 101, philosophy obviously intended as a "living techne̅."

All of Sade is here: in primis, his passion for the theater and all that relates to role-playing (quite literally), costumes, and scenes; his insane curiosity; his "principle of tact" (the very same that so much intrigued Roland Barthes); "Sensible," his partner in crime; the affectionate fatherly rapport with his step-son; not to mention that typical, healthy/sane (or unhealthy/insane?) touch of irony which has always permeated his art and his life, either by choice or by fate.

a lively experienced actress
Le Chévalier et l'Actrice

Online texts:
La Philosophie dans le boudoir
Cinematographia sadiana

Augustin thrashes...
Fustigation first...

...and young Emilie crashes
...then initiation
(but guess who got thrashed?)

Coherent with Jacquot's sympathetic and positive approach, and true to the "real" (historical) Sade, there's the typically Sadian ambiguity between art and life. The initiation scene, in my humble opinion, is the real centerfold of the movie with a peculiar inversion of Shakespeare in Love, apparently applying to reality what Sade had already "invented" in the Philosophie dans le boudoir (all the characters are here: from the bigoted mother to the libertine father, from the moderately perverse chevalier to the physically endowed albeit rustic Augustin, besides, bien sûr, our delightful petite ingénue).

The movie's underlying conviction is that it is primarily ideas which are scandalous (or exciting--in Sade the two concepts overlay and are often equivalent), therefore capable of corrupting, while facts are but their logical conclusion and fulfillment.

With discretion and moderation, Jacquot shows to be perfectly aware of the delicate and controversial nature of the material at hand by never interfering directly and bombastically; actually, he almost seems to set himself quietly aside in order to let the hystrionic personage speak for himself. Tactful direction assisted by artful photography, faithful to reality without loud, self-complacent frills. A very handsome movie, then; this is a delightful movie which, just because of its unpolemic approach, becomes all the more precious to Sadians and laymen alike, considering the "peculiar" character it portrays.

I shall conclude with a curious quotation from Daniel Auteuil: "To play a man who, while he's directing a scene says something like "fuck me up" may make you ridiculous. The only way to do it was to have already experienced those sensations."

A trés bientôt and, above all, enjoy!

Movie facts

SADE - (France) dir. Benoît Jacquot
Released in France : 23 august 2000
Script : Jacques Fieschi, from Serge Bramly's novel, "La Terreur dans le boudoir"
Cast : Daniel Auteuil (Sade), Isild Le Besco (Emilie), Marianne Denicourt (Sensible), Grégoire Colin (Fournier), Jalil Lespert (Augustin), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Lancris), Jeanne Balibar (Mme Santero), Philippe Duquesne (Coignard)
Photography : Benoît Delhomme;
Production : Patrick Godeau; Distribution : Océan Films; Dur. : 1h40

  1. Teaser
  2. Daniel Auteuil:
    Ecran Noir (fr)
  3. Interviews:
    Soir Illustré
  4. An unfair comparison with Quills

The woes of (their) discontent

Seen that, done that

[...] As flamboyant as Rush is in his work, Auteuil is subtle and almost subterranean. His Sade (he has been stripped of his title and is greeted as "Citizen Sade" through most of the picture) is a gentle man, whose passions fly in the face of the rein of Robespierre. He is forever branded a pervert, but this Sade is just a guy who loves and respects women more than anyone else in the movie. Or seemingly on the planet. [...]
url: http://www.roughcut.com/

Humane, all too humane

One wouldn't expect to describe a visit with the Marquis de Sade as "safe", but safe is what you get with Benoit Jacquot's SADE. Set during Sade's mysterious incarceration following the French Revolution, the film features a powerful, performance by Daniel Auteuil as Sade, and little nudity or sadism, subverting expectations. Wisely, Sade's fetishes are subtext to greater themes of life's parodoxes - duplicity in marriage and politics, the duality of life and death. An innocent girl (Isild Le Besco), is inexorably drawn to Sade, but...it's all so humane.
by Tim Singh
url: http://www.globeandmail.com/series/filmfest/reviews.html

It's all in the head

One of the joys of a film festival is having the director say a few words of introduction prior to viewing his/her work. Tonight was no exception as Benoit Jacque spoke briefly in French about his latest film "Sade". He explained that although the Marquis De Sade's works have passed into the vernacular, his identity and life story is myth. Jacquot has attempted to give that myth a name and an identity of its own. French actor Daniel Auteuil, in a highly cerebral, intellectual & controlled portrayal of the famous writer & libertine brings the enigmatic character to life. [...]
url: http://www.highangle.co.uk/reviews/sade.html


The film is beautifully put together--Jacquot directs with a natural eye, capturing both the battered glory and the underlying wit of the French nobility ... in stark contrast to the earnestness of the revolutionaries. It's fiercely clever and beautifully subtle in every way, and yet it's also, like Sade himself, unflinching in the face of extreme pain and sexuality.
by Rich Cline
url: http://www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk/swsade.htm

Vanilla Flat

Benoit Jacquot's thoughtful but underwhelming costumer shows how, during the French Revolution, the notorious marquis kept his head when all around him were (literally) losing theirs. Set in 1794 during the closing months of the government-sanctioned bloodbath known as "The Terror," "Sade" speculates about the only period in the rifle character's life about which little is known and makes a case for him as a swell guy who inspired both lust and loyalty. The consistently excellent Daniel Auteuil infuses his character with just enough elegant oomph to keep things interesting but, despite several fine individual scenes, pic is strangely fiat and perfunctory more often than not.
by Lisa Nesselson
url: http://www.findarticles.com/m1312/2_380/65132864/p1/article.jhtml

Whip it God

Don't go to see "Sade" expecting whips and defiled virgins. There is one scene that contains both -- and it's probably strong enough to earn any U.S. release an NC-17 rating -- but otherwise, this film from Benoit Jacquot is a contemplative and philosophical affair that would be strictly art house fare in North America. [...] Veteran actor Auteuil has never met a role he cannot bend to his will, and Sade is no exception. He turns the infamous libertine and sexual adventurer into a man of mental and physical vigor who could probably out-debate God.
by Kirk Honeycutt
url: http://www.hollywoodactor.com/

All images featured in this page are taken from the movie's official site.

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