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                                         Could you shrink from so simple an adventure?   No, no, you will proceed into this small vaulted room, and through this into several others, without perceiving anything very remarkable in either.  In one perhaps there may be a dagger, in another a few drops of blood, and in a third the remains of some instrument of torture; but there being nothing in all this out of the common way, ... Jane Austen as Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey



From Quills: another 18th century film where we watch a book burn (others are both NA films, and Miss Austen Regrets)

Dear friends and readers,

Tonight I'm writing a blog movie-review about Philip Kaufman, Doug Wright and Julia Chasman's Quills, a movie I did not like. It's been my policy over the past year or so not to write about movies or books or whatever that I don't like - as it takes time -- except when I think there is something importantly bad about it. In this case too I'm clarifying to myself (or will as I write and then revise and polish this one) what I think about this movie and how it relates to my recent project.



Charenton Dungeon halls as seen or built in Quills

Someone asked me why I watched it, and have been reading Francine du Plessix-Grey's At Home with the Marquis de Sade as the probable sexual sadism of this movie and (as I've discovered) the snobbery, willingness to cater to supposed glamor and liking for stories of famous aristocrats in Plessix-Grey are not my usual thing. 

Good question and I'll answer it as preface:  more than a year ago now I read Mary Trouille's book on Wife Abuse in mid-18th century France and liked it very very much. I wrote a blog-review:  In Trouille's book is a chapter on a woman called the Marquise de Granges. She was pushed into an arranged or coerced marriage, and then treated horribly, beaten, terrified, harassed, and she went to court to win separation and an income, a real life court case producing records which show aspects of the ancien regime as women experienced it.  Sade wrote a novel based on her life story. I've wanted to read it since then.  I had listened to Plessix-Gray's book read aloud by Donada Peters for Books-on-Tape but not read it quietly to myself which I did want to do.  In order to understand why Sade wrote a novella based on the Marquise de Granges's story I needed to learn about him and how this book relates to his life and other work.



Miolans, one of the fortresses Sade was imprisoned in, from Plessix-Grey's Chez Sade

I've also read: Sadeian Woman by Angela Carter, a brilliant parody and critique of Sade, and A. S. Byatt's Babel Tower, which includes an inset novella set in the ancien regime where a group of idealists set up a community apart, which given human nature from Sade's point of view (or what we find in The Lord of the Flies) becomes a hell of cruelty where the strong abuse the weak.  The story in the present is parallel to this and is about wife abuse.



I am just now reading Felicite de Genlis's Adele et Theodore, which contains at least 3 gothic novels:    The most famous is a longish inset gothic novel, Histoire de la Duchess de C**********, very powerful, epistolary journal, about a wife badly abused by her husband, among other things he throws her in a dungeon, beats her, terrorizes her, which begins in Volume II and goes on for quite a while. It was published separately and in English translation too -- and today exists in a modern separate edition in French. I hope to read Charlotte Smith's Ethelinde, or The Recluse of the Lake, her Celestina (a dungeon story), and perhaps reread Radcliffe's Sicilian Romance which like the story of the younger son in Adele et Theodore has a wife in the dungeon.  I want to bring together these materials as the underbelly of Northanger Abbey, embedded or reflected in the story of Mrs and Eleanor and General Tilney, not to omit Henry -- and Catherine's nightmare dreams.

There are different gothics, and one, male, which often features vampires, is deeply misogynistic, tends to pornographic and revels in cruelty, especially towards women, power over them.  This movie participates in except two of the women attempt to free themselves from either the hated husband or job as chambermaid -- supposedly liberated by reading Justine, which is said to be (by Plessix-Grey) a kind of Candide which exposes the cruelty of the universe.  Justine is like Pangloss going about saying virtue is rewarded, and we see that the reality is the opposite. So she might as well give in to her appetites.  My view is that giving into her appetites is giving into appetites of men and becoming their plaything -- and Carter partly says this. .Another type of gothic can be (and has been called) female gothic: Radcliffe writes this, so too Wharton, and it tends to be ghost stories, stories of psychological intangible terror with woman as victims. Here's my paper on NA as a female gothic novel, recuperative, genuinely empowering

I've been reading about Sade and books by him:  Sade

So, now:  Quills



Madeleine 'Maddy' LeClerc (Kate Winslett) and The Abbe du Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix): there was such a chambermaid with that name and an Abbe who was an idealist running Charenton, but the characters as developed in this movie are fantasy.  Winslett often plays radical-thinking and feeling victim heroines (Marianne Dashwood, Sue Bridehead in S&S and Jude, respectively) Here they have a philosphical discussion which presents the idea it's hard to tell evil from good, and indeed we will find that the evil man of the movie, Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) masquerading as an religious stern but good man is a cruel power-hungry appetite-ridden sadist who destroys the Abbe and inflicts horrendous cruelties on everyone


Caine is dressed to look Vampire like

Written by Doug Wright, directed by Philip Kaufman, and produced by Julia Chasman.  I watched this movie last night -- well, nearly watched it. I couldn't really look at the film steadily in the last 25 minutes or so.  I had to avert my eyes, look away.  It left me shaking, shocked. No one who had mentioned it to me really conveyed the horror of it.  It seems to me a horror male gothic film disguised as or combined with period and biopic drama, and connects to "horror-revenge" films or rape-revenge cycles, a subgenre of high violence, heavily sexua, brutal (I Spit on Your Grave is a notorious example).  There are articles on these, books:  Jacina Reed, The New Avengers: Feminism, feminity and the rape-revenge cycle (Manchester University Press, 2000); Colleen Kennedy, "Simulating Sex and Imagining Mothers," American Literay History, 4 (1992):165-85; Julianne Pidduck, “The 1990s Hollywood Femme Fatale: (Dis)Figuring Feminism, Family, Irony and Violence,” Cineaction, 38 (1995):65-72

I realize the film-makers are presenting it as "serious" on some level.  We have the audio-commentary (not for me as then I'd have to sit through the film in slow motion), two features (which I will try to watch), and other paratexts which announce this.  But I wonder: at some level it felt very sick (I was sickened), a revelling in imagined perverse physical pain on offer (about people's mouths especially), even if what was exposed was the cruelties that masquerade under respectability and (yes) religion.  Bizarre too, necrophilia, sexual sadisms.

The movie began tongue-in-cheek, with Ron Cook as a parody  Napoleon, and at first was self-reflexively making fun of itself as well as other conventions. Its themes were censorship, hypocrisy, freedom of speech ostensibly, but as it went along (as Andrew Stein shows in a review),

           "is about desire and its discontents, not freedom of speech. The deplorable act uncovered in the film is not censorship of free speech but censorship of desire. Sade represents a man open to all his desires (in art if not in the real world); this is the theme that provokes and excites, fascinates and generates horror in people. Consequently, the film is about Sade and sadomasochism, and, to the extent that the ideals of free speech are at stake, they are couched in the language of Sadean perversion. Liberal ideals of free speech, when connected to a figure like Sade, become rationalizations masking the contemporary fascination with a historical figure who appeared open to forbidden fantasy; the stuff about censorship, the right of Art to say anything and critique hypocrisy, is at best secondary, a mere smokescreen. Quills thus expresses the filmmakers' and filmgoers' fantasies of perverse, unlimited gratification and their anxieties about the limits placed on those desires. We have only to look to consumer culture to discover the source of those fantasies and preoccupations. The media projects a continuous barrage of messages inviting people to indulge their fantasies and overcome their inhibitions. In the consumer age, to be free takes on the meaning of being free to enjoy and express desires without being censored for them (either from within or without). That is the fascination a figure like Sade holds over people in the postmodern consumer society. That is the real subject of the film (From The American Historical Review, Vol. 106, No. 5 (Dec., 2001), pp. 1915-1916)

And when the violence really got going and the attack (so to speak) on the abbe and Sade ended in the horrific death of the latter and madness of the former, it became a revelling in cruelty itself, especially towards women. We see them sodomized as a matter of course, and finding liberation in reading pornography, e.g., Simone (Amelia Warner), the girl Dr Royard-Collard buys from a nunnery.  No where in the movie do we find out anything philosophical about Justine: what's suggested is girls want to have fun. 


Maddy reads Sade's writing

As Andrea Dworkin and others have argued, this is changing one nightmare for the same one with a new justification that deprives women of the desire to say no. This is what is especially troubling. And that it was said to be mainstream. 

Perhaps this was thought right for a Sade movie. As the reader will see from the comments I received on C18-l, the film is a fantasy, seen as a metaphor for Sadean ideas.   As far as I can see it, the film tells us about our era far more than Sade: how a particular group of film-makers want him to be seen and how they use what's associated with him.  So he is made to stand against censorship but he is also closely associated with sadism. In this film he is the victim not the perpetrator -- as in life especially in his early years he was, if not of such total horrific acts as are attributed to Royard-Collard in the film (and his instruments and people acting for him), acts bad enough to make him a clear and present danger to others as he would not or could not control his sprees. See from Plessix-Grey's book: Chapters 5 (The First Outrage), 8 (Easter Sunday, the Keller case), and 10 (The Orgy, sometimes referred to as "Little girls" as if prostitutes were not women) whch however tell only what got into police records and went to court at length. I do think there was something wrong or disturbed in this man: for periods he'd ben an exemplary husband, son-in-law, father, and then turn around and act out bizarre adolescent boy cruelties dressed up with blasphemies of a childlike sort.

That a film has little to do with its central historical figure in and of him or herself is very common with biopics and also many movies, sequels, to say nothing of academic literary and film criticism, recent biographies and editions.  Yes the sources are said to be (variously), Lever's or Schaeffer's biography.  But these are huge and I've dipped into them and they are hagiographical.  You would as well instance Plessix-Grey. the feature claimed that Boilly's slightly salacious depiction of a laundress ironing lies behind the presentation of the chambermaid -- she does use her iron to stop the monster-man  fro raping her; it is he who finally destroys her as we listen to her screams:



Probably the source are the movies and scripts Doug Wright knows well, and books like Bataille's Literature and Evil.  Think of Becoming Jane, Shakespeare in Love.  A not unimportant change is to chose the brilliant actor, Geoffrey Rush who is handsome and vulnerable looking and has much gravitas:



Here he is elegant



Melancholy, and now as kind of mercurial waif, neurotic, but he wouldn't hurt a fly, a friend to the Abbe who is deluded and destroyed by Royard-Collard:



Peter pan like, he writes all over his clothes!

It had a number of conventions at the close which are found in horrors:  the man who Kate Winslett as the chambermaid burns on the face when he sexually harasses her is a hideous fat monster type (an Egor) and he wants to get back.  He takes a scissors to her mouth, her vagina.  Just about everyone is subjected to the worst cruelties in their mouths:  tongues cut out, teeth cracked and pulled out, crosses rammed down their throats.  Close-ups of this are provided. And all this is connected to the guillotine:  the movie opens with a scene of horrific humliation and cruelty as we watch a young woman slowly put on the guillotine and beheaded in slow motion so she can experience each second of it. She gets to see the heads below.  The idea is to equate these tortures with the French revolution.

There were the counter-movement images of sympathy for women:  one chambermaid is the snitcher and it's she who actually leads to Maddy's death (though Royard-Collard who permits the horror to go on), but we do have Simone sodomized, Pelagie walking away with dignity (played by Geoffrey Rush's actress wife in real life) and especially Billie Whitelaw as Madame LeClerc, Maddie's closest friend-mother-companion. She survives and when we last see the now crazed Abbe in a cell, himself deprived of quills and paper as he (under the instruction of Royard-Collard) had deprived Sade who had been his friend if he had only recognized it:


or at least as here, harmless, civilized

Now the Abbey is given quills and paper in the laundry by Madame le Clerc as Kate (the maid) once gave Geoffrey (as Sade). The final scene of the film provides a moment of comaraderie and compassionate feeling for this older woman, which reminds me of Marianne von Werekin paintings



Abbe now the pathetic tormented starved prisoner



the old woman gives him quills and paper in the laundry



This is the closing image of the film. Compare Madeleine von Werekin's Woman with a Lantern

There's no comparison with the mini-series, the 1975-8 BBC Poldark, probably half-despised, which makes no over pretensions to an art film and its sources in the genuinely liberal Poldark novels by Winston Graham.  In the film there we merely get sudden and marital rapes, casual executions of people lined up against walls (roped in that morning from a prison, counter-revolutionaries the killers), very sick people (typhoid, malaria) dying with terrible miseries in prison, thrown there for poaching to feed families, starvation riots on beaches (also to get back) mantraps set up by aristocrats with feet crushed, enclosures throwing people off land, death by drowning in mines and from the wretched conditions, people shot up while smuggling to fish. Usual stuff.  More my speed. 

Ellen

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 05:14 am (UTC)
Linda:

"I watched Quills last evening, somewhat appropriate for the eve of Bastille Day--although I didn't know it at the time.

Geoffrey Rush does a wonderful job of portraying the Marquis as a tormented, complex and sympathetic character. The details of 18thC life are wonderful, especially life in the asylum. I noted with interest the noise and commotion we heard each time a team of horses set out for a trip down some lonely country road. I imagine it really was like that and don't recall that detail in other movies set in the period.

Of course, the Marquis is juxtaposed to the young, idealistic Abbe. The contrast between the two represents the distinction between one who emphasizes the good in man, our ability and willingness to love (Abbe) with one who emphasizes or sees the ugliness, cruelty and perversion of man (Marquis). I was convinced by the end that the Marquis made a strong point.

The idea of a literate chambermaid in those days was a stretch of the imagination for me. That she was also beautiful (Kate Winslet) and virginal, smart and clever made her a heroine for all times.

It was interesting to me to see how the common folk loved the Marquis's writings.

Now I've started At Home with the Marquis, and the first chapters are somewhat dull. I don't know how far I'll get at this rate. Maybe a lot of skim-reading. Having seen this sympathetic portrait of the Marquis will probably influence my reception of Plessix-Gray;s account."

misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 10:42 am (UTC)
Not historically accurate at all
From Catherine Delors, novelist:

"Dear Ellen,

I watched Quills a few years ago, and was shocked, both by the violence and by the historical inaccuracy of the thing. It starts with the very first frame of the film, where we have a medieval (!) executioner, complete with hood, in the midst of the French Revolution and it goes downhill from there.

Don't look for any authentic period detail there. It's not remotely a biography of Sade either, though many viewers took it as such.

Catherine"
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)
Gothic, French Lit, abuse of women
Linda:

"Ellen,

From Linda:

Excellent blog about Sade and Quills.

Thanks for explaining your interest in Sade as stemming in part from your interest in the Gothic, French literature and, also,the abuse of women.

I read the whole review by Andrew Stein and thought it to be very perceptive.

You quoted his central thesis.

"is about desire and its discontents, not freedom of speech. The deplorable actuncovered in the film is not censorship of free speech but censorship of desire.. .this is the theme that provokes and excites, fascinates and generates horror in people... the right of Art to say anything and critique hypocrisy, is at best secondary, a mere smokescreen. Quills thus expresses the filmmakers' and filmgoers' fantasies of perverse, unlimited gratification and their anxieties about the limits placed on those desires."

The film is thus concerned with not just censorship, but unlimited
censorship--total, absolute self-expression, no matter the consequences to others. And as Stein stated, this is merely a smokescreen to the real concern of the censorship of desire.

I find it all very interesting.

Linda
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
Postive film studies and Sade view
From Dorothee Polanz, 18th century French scholar:

"I've been watching this movie a lot, and of course, historical accuracy is not the point here. Sade was not tortured nor did he has his tongue cut out. I published an article analyzing in details the treatment of the figure of Sade in American and British movies.

"Sade au prisme du cinéma étranger", L’écran des Lumières / Les Lumières à l’écran. Ed. Laurence Schifano and Martial Poirson. Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (SVEC), Oxford. 2009

I found it interesting though that the director decided to "cut out" Sade's tongue as a metaphorical way to shut him off. It is a way to represent censorship. The aesthetic of the movie is of course much more inspired by Sade's fictions rather than his own life. American movies often depicts him as a monster, a character of his own fictions. There is an impressive filmography of Sade movies that I put together, some of his life, some are adaptations of his works. If you were sickened by Quills, you should definitely not watch "Salo" by Passolini. The reading of Sade stories in itself is sickened.

About the treatment of patients in asylum, it is certainly more true about it than the way Sade is shown, as explained in Foucault "Histoire de la Folie".

This is not a horror revenge movie, nor a slasher movie, nor a rape revenge either. "Saw" or "The last house on the left" is more like it and certainly much more people have watched them that the still artsy Quills. In fact, Quills can be considered as one of the Sade movies that is trying to have the most accurate historical perspective. I'm thinking about "The skull" by Freddie Francis, where the skull of Sade can "possess" its owners, or "The erotic House of Wax" where the statue of Sade comes to life at night and enjoys wiping people.

Interestingly enough, Quills show itself as an accurate historical movie, but every people familiar with Sade know that he was not tortured or had his tongue cut out, so I argue that it is more a fantasy also based on Sade's works and the persistent idea that only a "monster" could have write what he wrote. It is an easy way to classify him as a mentally sick person, so that he can be isolated and put aside of the Enlightenment. He is, on the contrary, an obsessive reader of philosophy and a philosopher himself. Like with the Bastille Day discussion we had, it is not a correct vision to see the Enlightenment as just a beautiful period of pure reason and advancement in sciences and just. Sade is here to remind us that light always has its shadows.

Dorothee Polanz
PhD candidate, University of Maryland
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
More on accuracy and sources
Just in reply on this point: so much in the movie was not literally true, to wit: the contraptions used were not literally true. The specific characterizations were not literally true. There was no such abbe or physician? clearly no chambermaid. Sade did not at all die that way.

To say the movie is more accurate than Foucault is not helpful in the sense that the sentence implies Foucault is inaccurate.

Are there any specific historical or novelistic sources for it? any that were claimed?

Ellen
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
I spit on your grave
How nice to find this thread in my maillbox! I think that's Meir Zarchi's 1978 I Spit on Your Grave, a broad adaptation of Bergman's Virgin Spring. I Spit is an incredibly brutal, super-realistically-shot (think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Last House on the Left) rape-revenge film that's actually in the process of being remade. Just as a side note, such films--especially the '70s films--are always, in some senses, about the limits of looking, the fraught relationship between looking and experiencing, power and taste. Definitely not not troubled with the exploitative gaze--even straightforward misogyny--but also chock full of other interesting things to think about, as Ellen's bibliography shows. It's interesting that the more condemnatory responses (and there are a lot!) to the film haven't really changed in 30 years, which makes me wonder what *else* hasn't changed.

For some reason, I'm reminded of The Tatler 99: "Every one is judge of the danger of the fellow on the ladder, and his activity in coming down safe; but very few are judges of the distress of a hero in a play, or of his manner of behaviour in those circumstances. Thus, to please the people, two houses must entertain them with what they can under-stand, and not with things which are designed to improve
their understanding."

TH
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)
sources and accuracy
Dorothee:

"To answer to Ellen,

The chambermaid is actually the closest character to reality as it is know that Sade had a relationship with his " lingere". The physician is absolutely real as well, and a lot of characters represent (I insist on represent) some of the opponents Sade had to face all his life: society, religious... Again, this is much more a metaphorical way to comment on Sade's life. I did not say that the movie is "more" accurate than Foucault, I meant that the treatment of mentally ill people in this movie is more accurate than the details of Sade's life in this movie.Then, I referred to Foucault for more information of this matter. I am sorry if it was not clear before, English is not my mother tongue as I am French and German.

Actually, quite a few movies choose to focus on Sade's life at Charenton (see Jaquot's 'Sade' with Daniel Auteuil and another chambermaid). Part of the dialogue used in Quills are direct quotes from Sade. And the figure of the priest absolutely makes sense if we consider Sade's famous "Dialogue entre un pretre et un moribond". Sade's works is often credited in movies, as well as studies such as the huge biography by Maurice Lever."
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
"Tame Stuff"
Off blog people suggest this is "tame stuff:" If so, I would not be amused or untroubled by this. It's very great cruelty what you are asked to revel in -- if it were real. I see it as inuring people to this. Mine is not an uncommon position. Of course when we watch we know we are watching much fakery about the tortures (or we'd call the police) and simulated sex. I'll stay with my judgement this is horror-revenge stuff -- numbers of conventions found in just plain horror movies were here (including the monster-like presentation of the man who murdered Kat Winslett so painfully) presented under the mode of period drama.

On women I meant statistically across the board. Any individual may feel this or that way for a whole host of individual reasons.

E.M."
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
I spit on your grace
From Tom:

"I doubt there is anything like an "original" of this title, but it is worth mentioning that "J'Irai Cracher Sur Votre Tombe" is a novel by Boris Vian, published in 1946 and made into a film in 1959 by Michel Best; I remember seeing that film in NY in 1960 at one of those Times Square theaters that used to be open all night, showing four or five films in sequence.

"I Spit On Your Grave" seemed to my adolescent eyes an over-the-top parody (but very serious) of the seamier passages of Erskine Caldwell or even Faulkner (parts of Sanctuary?). Vian is credited for the screenplay, though other writers were involved. It was easily the most "sensational" movie I had seen at that point in my life. It was badly dubbed in English, as I recall, but visually the film was pretty good. The story of the Zarchi film is quite different, though comparably sensational. Just to add to the mix."
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
Sade's works, popular attitudes
Dorothee:

Sade works themselves are credited. Which is of tremendous signification because it means that his fictions are taken for real or for a reflection of what his did or said by the director. And of course, the audience wants to see this kind of violence when Sade is announced. Sade is today reduced to many people as a sadist himself and the crowd, who mostly don't know about his life, would not be interested to see the truth. Violence and sex is expected and unfortunately, these cliches are true about so many period drama.

And I repeat, Maurice Lever's biography is the source."
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
NA: real and romantic gothicism
Ellen,

Read and enjoyed your 2008 "The Gothic Northanger Abbey: A Re-evaluation" paper:

http://www.jimandellen.org/austen/gothicna.html

Looking forward to being there and hearing your Portland AGM paper "People that Marry Can Never Part": Real and Romantic Gothicism in Northanger Abbey.

I've now put the other two Radcliffe novels, "Romance of the Forest" and "Mysteries of Udolpho" on the desktop to see if I can get into reading them.


Christy
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
Radcliffe
Thank you, Christy. Some sincere advice on Radcliffe: begin with Romance of the Forest, and don't worry yourself if the first few pages seem puzzling or stilted. Plow on or through until the family arrive in the forest abby. It's not that many pages and then the book comes alive.

Udolpho needs to come afterwards because Radcliffe is a specialized sort of taste. One that needs to be acquired - as one acquires a taste for say brandy.

Ellen
misssylviadrake
Jul. 23rd, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
Brissenden
R. F. Brissenden's _Virtue in Distress_ usefully compares Sade & Austen. RF"
misssylviadrake
Jul. 24th, 2010 01:27 am (UTC)
Marquise de Ganges
From Dorothee:

"Dear Ellen,

If I may, it is Sade's Marquise de Gange (he specifically spelled it without an "s"). This is perhaps his last novel, since his last erotic novel in ten volumes (Florbelle) was burnt by his son. It is probably not the most representative "sadean" work at all, as this novel along with Histoire Secrete d'Isabelle de Baviere managed to be published!

More on the asylum young girl, she did exist, she was 17, her name was Magdeleine Leclerc, and Sade in his Journal (that could be a source for Quills as well) stated that they had 57 sexual encounters. I wish he would have gone in more details, but in 1809 the police deprived him of pens and paper, though the doctor of the asylum François Simonet de Coulmier (they had a great friendship and mutual respect) tried to soften his condition."

misssylviadrake
Jul. 24th, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
Neil Schaeffer's review of Quills
Dear all,

On C18-l (it's a more academic 18th century list), a Sade and film studies scholar sent along a URL to a review of Quills by Neil Schaeffer whose biography of Sade Gillian Gill and Beatrice Fink summarized and commented on:

http://www.neilschaeffer.com/sade/bibliography/quills.htm

It's negative. He does not like the film.

Ellen
misssylviadrake
Jul. 24th, 2010 11:18 am (UTC)
A frank voice
I saw Quills on TV years ago, loathsome turgid horrible.
misssylviadrake
Jul. 24th, 2010 11:32 am (UTC)
On Stein's review
From Dorothee:

"That is a great review Ellen thank you! I agree very much with it, this movie is not about Sade, it is more like a metaphor for many other notions.

Il est evident aussi que Sade se pose en martyr (sa correspondance le prouve) et se met lui-meme en scene.

Michel Onfray's position on Sade is clear on this point, Sade is a "bourreau", not a victim.

So many things could be said about his mental health (or lack of it).

I just wish that justice and the general public would be as prompt today to recognize our "monsters", who, comparatively are doing far worse than Sade and doing far less prison time.

And I don't know why at some point I switched to French..."
misssylviadrake
Jul. 24th, 2010 11:46 am (UTC)
films not respected
Here is another aspect of film studies which interests me: why do people persist in critiquing a film from the point of view of literal historical accuracy or its literal faithfulness to the epononymous book? Most film-makers do not make any serious claims to accuracy, and of late (I'd say that last decade), many in the features that accompany the DVDs specifically let you know they had a vision of their own, meant to depart this or that way, often because filmic art is different from a book or history-telling, wanted to make some statement about the source or subject of the film.

But viewers, and not just pop ones, persist in faulting films on this basis. One answer I know is it's easy (doesn't take any thought but a little memory), and film-makers, especially when they claim to be telling history, or in order to fool people who persist in demanding literal accuracy or faithfulness are disingenuous. They claim they are faithful using mystic (not demonstrable or testable language) about the "spirit" of the book or event.

Another is the investment of a particular person in say the books he or she studies and favorite theories about them. Some of this can be quite ugly, condescending. Last week I read a series of articles published in a respectable academic journal which just dissed the brilliant Daniel Deronda film -- and they were silly sometimes, pointing to impossible details in the novel "not there" in teh film (forms of showing off), talking in language that were they to apply it to Eliot's books would despise them. Anything may be ridiculed, anything.

This latter investment in some other media that films use with the underlying result of such critiques to prove the film inferior gives me one answer I do believe: people today still don't grant films autonomy as art. They don't grant films the rights they do other arts -- say the non-verbal ones altogether. It might be said, well, so many films are utter trash, manipulative machines to make huge sums of money through technologies that stimulate the brain, showing raw sex, violence, intense emotionalism, but there is much trash and nonsense in books, awful music.

So I conclude films are today in the stage novels were before the 19th century: they are not respected. The industry doesn't mind because then the audiences are in no danger of being intimidated or made "class-conscious" when go in.

Ellen
misssylviadrake
Jul. 24th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
ON sex censorship
From Nancy (Janeites):

"Censorship has come to have a prejorative mantle cast upon it. That is, in many minds censorship equals bad and something we should not allow. However, any one who sees the world with even half opened eyes knows that some restraints are necessary in this world. Some imaginations need to be curbed.

I do not think I could stomach watching such a movie . It almost made me ill just reading the posts of some people (on another list) who tried to convince us that Sade was a philosopher who was suffering from a undeserved bad reputation.

From all reports Sade deserves to have his name immortalized forever in the words sadistic and sadism.
Nancy"
misssylviadrake
Jul. 24th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
Nancy,

I agree with you that Sade is not a misjudged victim of sexual repression. His bad reputation is deserved. He victimized the vulnerable in unspeakable ways. Foucault and others used Sade as a counterweight to what they saw as state "ownership" and control of the physical body through an ideology that caused people to repress their sexual energy and channel it into acceptable activities:
procreation and work. Foucault, who enacted his political philosophy of not allowing conventional morality to restrict his sexual activities, died early on in the AIDS epidemic. One might argue that the state has an interest in regulating sexuality to protect the decent and less powerful from the predations of the sociopaths and to
at least try to curtail the spread of epidemics by disseminating information that allows people to protect themselves. In other words, some self-imposed sexual "repression" is arguably healthy for the individual and for society. If that's "brainwashing," so be it.

Diane R."
misssylviadrake
Jul. 24th, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
Sade not misjudged victim of sexual repression
Nancy,

I agree with you that Sade is not a misjudged victim of sexual repression. His bad reputation is deserved. He victimized the vulnerable in unspeakable ways. Foucault and others used Sade as a counterweight to what they saw as state "ownership" and control of the physical body through an ideology that caused people to repress their sexual energy and channel it into acceptable activities:
procreation and work. Foucault, who enacted his political philosophy of not allowing conventional morality to restrict his sexual activities, died early on in the AIDS epidemic. One might argue that the state has an interest in regulating sexuality to protect the decent and less powerful from the predations of the sociopaths and to
at least try to curtail the spread of epidemics by disseminating information that allows people to protect themselves. In other words, some self-imposed sexual "repression" is arguably healthy for the individual and for society. If that's "brainwashing," so be it.

Diane R."
misssylviadrake
Sep. 15th, 2010 11:04 am (UTC)
The sort of figure people get excited about
From Nick:

"Both the blogs on Sade (well one on Quills) seem to have excited a great deal of comment - I suppose he is still the sort of figure people get excited about. I thought the remark about Foucault's death in very bad taste."
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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