For much of Quills, the Marquis de Sade remains a mysterious off-screen presence. Entombed in an insane asylum, he never leaves the cell in which he scribbles his manuscripts. Through keyholes, cracks in walls and doors left ajar, we observe him at a distance. He's like a caged animal. His shadowy presence tantalizes us, makes us beg for more. We want to draw closer but we dare not. Itís a strangely detached approach for director Phllip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Henry & June) who, being no stranger to literary eroticism, seldom flinches from the offensive. But the screenplay by Doug Wright (adapted from his stage play) gravitates towards a crowded gallery of stock characters and itís good-to-be-bad simplicity, leaving the vast wilderness of the Marquisí creativity virtually unexplored.
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