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The infamous writer, the Marquis de Sade of 18th Century France, is imprisoned at Charenton Insane Asylum for unmentionable activities. He manages to befriend the young Abbé de Coulmier, who runs the asylum, along with a beautiful laundress named Madeline. Things go terribly wrong when the Abbe finds out that the Marquis' books are being secretly published. The emperor Napoleon contemplates sending Dr. Royer-Collard to oversee the asylum, a man famed for his torturous punishments. It could mean the end of Charenton and possibly the Marquis himself. Written by
Emily H and Janette W
Philip Kaufmann has produced yet another amazing piece of work
Quills is one of the best films of 2000, in my reckoning, second best only to You Can Count on Me. It is one of the most brilliantly directed, acted, produced, and written films I've seen in a very long time. There is not a (major) character in this film that is not very complex, and the issues at stake are utterly important.
Perhaps the greatest success of the film is how well it works on commenting both on its own time and situations and our own world today. The issues of free speech, creativity, dementia, corporal punishment, religion, sexuality and especially politics are woven into the film in amazing ways. Yes, politics, for it works as an allegory to the recent presidential scandals.
There are two flaws, one major, one semi-major. The semi-major one involves the epilogue. It is not bad, but it is unnecessary. Perhaps the best way to describe it is superfluous and predictable. The major flaw would destroy any lesser film. Here, it is hardly noticable. Still, if one contemplates it, there is no getting around it. There is never a believable reason why Madeleine should be so helpful to the Marquis de Sade. They present a tiny one, but it is not good enough.
Still, with its successes elsewhere, these flaws do not weaken this film. Without them, it would have been perfect. With them, well, just because it is flawed, doesn't mean it isn't a masterpiece. 10/10
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