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Quills
DVD disk
Oct 7, 2004 By: Dr. Drew
Quills order
Director:
Philip Kaufman

Actors:
Geoffrey Rush
Kate Wislet
Joaquin Phoenix

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
While I’m far from being an S&M kind of guy, I’ve always been curious about what drives its participants to do the things they do. I never quite understood the fascination with whips, masks and gags. Getting my ass slapped silly just ain’t this reviewer’s idea of a good time, but I guess it's just different strokes for different folks. The man whose fetish bears his name, the Marquis de Sade, is the subject of the recently released DVD version of Quills.

Locked up in an insane asylum, the Marquis (Geoffrey Rush) soon discovers that erotic writing can serve a therapeutic purpose in soothing his uncontrollable libido. With the help of a laundry maid (Kate Winslet), he’ll publish his salacious and grossly indecent stories for public consumption and reading. But little does he know that his works will eventually earn him an infamous spot in history while simultaneously offending the entire French aristocracy.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Simply put, this film is a fiendishly dark comedy from start to finish and topped off by an over the top performance from Geoffrey Rush. He does an admirable job of playing the sex crazed author, complete with hilarious one liners and outrageous antics. Carrying the film on his shoulders, Rush’s extreme range of emotions easily makes him worthy of his Best Actor Oscar nod this year and how he lost to Crowe is beyond me. The movie itself plays out like a 19th century version of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST complete with a zany cast of insane patients with the Marquis serving as their emotional leader. Kudos to screenwriter Doug Wright for writing a scandalous and witty period piece that jumps back forth between stark drama and biting humor. The witty and often dirty dialogue plays out perfectly, complementing the already controversial subject matter.

The movie’s supporting cast also plays a big role in the story’s success. Joaquin Phoenix, breaking out his British accent from GLADIATOR, was solid as usual in the role of asylum priest and warden. I was particularly stricken with Kate Winslet’s character who in playing opposite Rush, was feisty and fun to watch. In a smaller role, Michael Caine was decent as the diabolical doctor who’s just as perverse and crazy as the Marquis, just in his own twisted way. All in all, a great job from the entire cast. Historical pieces often give good glimpses into the style of life which marked the times and this movie is no different. When not reviewing DVDs, I moonlight as a psychology student and couldn’t believe how poorly the mentally ill were treated. I’ve often read about the horrid conditions but this movie really helped shed light on how terrible things really were, look for the “treatment” sessions throughout the movie. Quills is at times, profoundly moving and at the same time, grossly funny and definitely worth checking out.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary: Alsoincluded on the DVD is a commentary track from writer Doug Wright who provides a really interesting listen despite being the only speaker. While his track is filled with lapses of silence, he does go into extensive background detail on his inspirations for writing the screenplay as well as provide plenty of filming anecdotes. I honestly think more DVDs should provide tracks from screenwriters simply because it’s nice to have someone else’s perspective beyond the obvious choice of director. It was cool to learn that the studio didn’t have the rights to Sade’s books and they were forced to re-write many of the verses all over so as not to plagiarize the originals. If you enjoyed the movie, I suggest that you give this one a listen.

Kicking off the added features is “Marquis on the Marquee”, a 5-minute featurette which focuses primarily on writer Wright’s role in bringing his play to the big screen. We also get interviews with cast members Rush, Winslet, Caine and Phoenix. It’s very brief in length but worth going through. Next up is “Creating Charenton” which is another quick extra which goes into the creation and design of the insane asylum featured in the movie along with input from production design Martin Childs. “Dressing the Part” is another short 3-4 minute featurettte which provides an interview with costumer designer Jacqueline West and what inspired her to create the looks for certain characters. Worth a look.

My favorite supplement on the disc was the “Still Gallery and Production Artifacts”, which was a slide show of written texts from the Marquis shown in the movie. It was cool to read some of his “racier” works firsthand. Closing out the bonuses is a theatrical English and Spanish trailer as well as TV and soundtrack spots as well as a “Fact and Film”, an extra which provided historical notes on the real life character portrayed in the movie. The DVD does feature some pretty cool menus, spiced up with animation and dialogue from the movie.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
In terms of an overall package, I would’ve liked to have seen just a little more substance and depth on the behind the scenes featurettes. The fact that they managed to include a decent commentary track helps its cause and adds a considerable amount of information. While the audio and video are very well done, let’s not forget that the movie itself is definitely worth checking out with some kinky and memorable performances across the board. With that having been said, Quills shapes up to be a surefire rental choice, check it out.
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