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  •  REVIEW: SADE

    Sade

    Sade-ly mistaken

    The latest version of the Marquis de Sade's life, Benoit Jacquot's "Sade," takes a wrong turn when it presents the horrors of the French Revolution in genteel tones.

    By FRANK EPISALE
    Offoffoff.com

    The latest version of the Marquis de Sade's life, Benoit Jacquot's "Sade," takes a wrong turn when it presents the horrors of the French Revolution in genteel tones.

      
    SADE
    Directed by: Benoit Jacquot.
    Written by: Jacques Fleschi.
    Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Marianne Denicourt, Gregoir Colin, Idlid Le Besco, Vincent Branchet, Scali Delpeyrat..
    A strange sense of distance permeates Benoit Jacquot's new "Sade," a clever and often lovely film that somehow fails to make any visceral connection with its subject.

    Set in 1794, at the peak of Robespierre's self-righteous purge of France, the film takes place mostly at Picpus, a prison for those rich enough to pay for a certain degree of comfort and gentility in their exile. Sade (Daniel Auteuil) has little money of his own at this point but arrives at Picpus thanks to the persuasive powers of his longtime mistress Sensible (Marianne Denicourt), who has taken into her bed National Convention deputy Fournier (Gregoire Colin). Here, where he is known for being the probable author of "Justine" and for his various notorious exploits, he is generally shunned by the other inmates, members of the aristocracy intimidated by Sade's reputation for debased proclivities.


      
    From the bizarre spectacle of tastefully severed heads to handsomely framed shots of mass graves, even the film's most gruesome moments have such a cultured air about them.  

      
    Sade finds the prison's relative comfort and its highly idle atmosphere an ideal opportunity to return to his writing and to foment his ideas in a new generation of "innocents," embodied by the ingenue Emile (Islid Le Besco). Before long, he wins respect and admiration from many of his fellow detainees and sets about directing them in one of his tamer plays.

    This semi-idyllic life is interrupted, though, when Robspierre's National Convention begins guillotining and burying victims on the grounds of the Picpus estate. The faults of the film become clear at this point. Until now, it's seemed an intriguing twist to present Sade as a gentle man with refined tastes and extreme philosophies. But when the heads start rolling and the whip comes out, the film is still unable to leave the realm of the tasteful. Every frame is beautifully composed and cuts smoothly into the next. Even the occasional handheld shot has a classical, almost painterly feel. The pace never indulges in any kind of jolt. These and less tangible factors make for the bizarre spectacle of tastefully severed heads and handsomely framed shots of mass graves. Even the film's most gruesome moments have such a cultured air about them that they would scarcely unsettle the most timid stomach.

    Auteuil, Colin and Denicourt all give impressive, nuanced performances, and the narrative is well paced, never becoming boring. There's a fair amount of clever juxtaposition and some muted titillation, even some scenes that seem sweet despite an underlying brutality. The film's many virtues and several intriguing ideas never add up to much, though. Jacquot has written that he likes to think of "Sade" as "a cross between a rose and a whip", but despite all the violence it encompasses, this film never lashes out to sting its audience. The end result is too comfortable and too clean to do justice to the extremity of its subject.

    MAY 3, 2002
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Sade:

  • [no subject]   from , Oct 7, 2002
  • Re: sade   from Jules Noyons, May 18, 2005
  • BORING   from NP, Nov 25, 2004

  • Post a comment on "Sade"