Dec 20, 2000


It was the ultimate challenge for a defender of free speech to take on the case of the Marquis de Sade. Unfortunately the constructuon of this story is so wrong-headed that I kept wishing someone would put a gag in the Marquis' mouth. We have a hero who just has to write, even using his own blood as ink, as though that is enough to justify publication. We have the kindly priest who lets his insane patients put on the Marquis' witty sex ditties. We have the oppressive scientist who, surprise, is a hypocrite.

The conflict among these schematic characters goes on interminably with virtually no plot. Finally the film ends with one of the most absurd flips in recent memory. A story must be judged by its own internal logic, not some simplistc realism. But within the bounds of what this story sets up, its final events are utterly unbelievable and unmoving.

Writers often know where they want the story to go, but they fail to earn that ending by the proper dynamics of opposition in the middle. The result is fake drama, and a lot of angry audience members walking out the door.