Plot: What’s it about?
Although he is locked up in a mental institution, the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) is still able to express himself, thanks to some writing materials given to him. These tools were a gift from the resident priest Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), who humors de Sade and tries to allow him some level of freedom within his confinement. The papers and inks thrill de Sade, who uses them to pen some very sexual writings, which upsets the priest (although he’d rather see them on paper than in real life from de Sade) and would upset many others, if they were ever released into public hands. But de Sade wants his works to be seen and such, so he persuades a young laundrymaid, Madeline (Kate Winslet) into sneaking his papers off to be published. Of course, the local authorities are soon offended by these works and even though the masses love de Sade’s writings, a man is sent to cure him once and for all. The man sent is Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), who intends to use torture methods to straighten out de Sade, but little does he know that he is simply adding more fuel to the fire. As tension mounts and passion builds within the asylum, what will become of de Sade and his “sinful” creations?
This was one of my favorite films of 2000, but I still have some reservations about how Quills handles the subject matter. As this film deals with the Marquis de Sade, I expected a pretty offbeat flick, but really the persona of de Sade is toned down in this case. He still comes off as brutal and eccentric of course, but not as much so as I had hoped for. Even so, this was a terrific movie and I am very pleased to now own it on our beloved format. The cast here is top notch, with such names as Geoffrey Rush, Michael Caine, Joaquin Phoenix, and Kate Winslet all in fine form. Rush has some excellent moments here, but in the end, I think Winslet really shines and steal some of Rush’s thunder at times. This is a period piece of course and as such, it needs immersive production design and Quills more than delivers there also. The costumes look superb, the makeup is great, and the set design is downright gorgeous, very impressive work indeed. Quills turns out to be one wild ride and very well made in all respects, an excellent film in the end. As I mentioned before, I wish de Sade were given more depth and edge, but this is still a terrific picture and one that is well worth a look. I give this release a very high recommendation, so whether you purchase or rent, your money is very well spent here.
This movie has several superb performances, but I think the most memorable comes from Kate Winslet, who continues to impress me. I can’t say I’ve liked all of her performances, but she does take on offbeat characters and that is very cool, at least I think so. Winslet seems soaked in sensuality in Quills, which is never fully exploited, but just her persona alone is enough to drive home some sexual edge to the whole picture. I think if the writers would be expanded upon de Sade’s dark side, Winslet could have had some more chances to open up her character, but even as such, she more than delivers a solid performance here. I am always surprised when I remember how few pictures she has been involved with, as she seems like a seasoned veteran most of the time. You can also see Winslet in such films as Holy Smoke, Hideous Kinky, Jude, Titanic, and Heavenly Creatures. The cast of Quills also includes Geoffrey Rush (Shine, Mystery Men), Michael Caine (Get Carter, The Cider House Rules), Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, To Die For), Amelia Warner (Mansfield Park), and Billie Whitelaw (The Omen, The Dressmaker).
Video: How does it look?
Quills is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I knew this would be a solid transfer, but Fox has issued an almost flawless visual presentation in this case. The film’s subdued, metallic color scheme is well presented, especially the blue and green hues, which look excellent here. The more natural shades also come across well however, such as flesh tones and the greyish hues, so no problems there. The contrast is stark and even as well, which allows for accurate shadow depth and a strong amount of detail. I did see some slight grain at times, which is the sole reason this one just misses a perfect score.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is very much a dialogue driven picture, but the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track still delivers a solid audio experience. The surrounds don’t overload with input by any means, but at times it open up a little, which proves to be enough dynamic presence. Aside from the more active sequences, some atmosphere is provided by the musical score, which is well presented and adds some depth to the environment at times. The main element however is the dialogue, which sounds clean and crisp here, no real problems in the least to discuss. This disc includes 2.0 surround tracks in English and French, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is not a full blown special edition, but you’ll still find a nice selection of bonus materials on this disc. You can browse some “facts & film” notes, which offer some information on the cast and the characters they portray, which I think makes an excellent inclusion here. A total of three featurettes are also found here, being Marquis on the Marquee (8 minutes), Creating Charenton (4 1/2 minutes), and Dressing The Part (7 minutes). Although these are rather brief pieces, they combine to make a decent overview of the production, even though a more substantial documentary would have been very welcome indeed. Next is an audio commentary track with screenwriter Doug Wright, who provides a decent enough session here. Aside from some silent moments, Wright offers a solid commentary track and provides some good information, especially if you’re interested in the writer’s perspective on film. I wish we could have heard from the director and perhaps some cast members, but I am still pleased this track was included. This disc also includes a selection of still photos, a musical promo piece, a television spot, and two theatrical trailers.