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This week:


Filthy says:
"I sure hope the Marquis wasn't this boring."

I've always admired the Marquis de Sade, not only for telling dirty bastards like me that it's okay to think about humping corpses, but also for his pioneering work in the turn of dirty phrases. Hell, if it weren't for the Marquis, we'd still be saying "fucking him/her up the ass and then rubbing his/her own shit into a mustache on his/her upper lip" instead of the far more eloquent and mysterious "Dirty Sanchez." But the Marquis also gave name to such bedroom delights as the Cleveland Steamer, the Upper Tanker, Whispering Meat and the dreaded Tijuana Tingler (for professionals only). The work of the Marquis has inspired me to my own demons by writing autobiographical porn in Usenet news groups (the curious reader should search for "The Barstool Had a Tongue," my first period piece "Vanishing Britches," and an early, overly literal story titled "The Double-Jointed Dwarf is Gonna Fuck You.")

It's because I love the Marquis so much that Quills was a big downer. It's a long, stagey and histrionic "Masterpiece Theater" with more nudity and shit on the walls than "Upstairs, Downstairs" but still not enough. Those self-satisfied NPR cultists will think they're oh-so open-minded for not being disgusted. But those of us who live in filth every day, not just pass through when it's hip, know that Quills is way tamer than the letters section of "Fanny Fister Magazine." And the audience's reaction was considerably less vocal than when I flip through a copy of that magazine on the bus.

Quills is a fictitious story about the dirty old Marquis de Sade, played by Geoffrey Rush. Imprisoned in a nuthouse run by compassionate priest Joaquin Phoenix, Rush continues to publish his foul porno stories by sneaking them out to the world with randy chamber-maid Kate Winslet. When Napoleon learns of his latest publication, he sends self-righteous doctor Michael Caine to watch over the asylum and silence Rush. When Rush writes a play that mocks Caine and his hot little underage wife, Caine responds by demanding tighter restrictions on him.

Rush's quills and ink are taken away from him, but he manages to write using wine on his bedsheets. When even those are taken away, he uses blood to write on his underpants. I've tried something similar. In desperate moments at bars, I have jotted down a girl's phone number on my underwear with urine, but I made the mistake of writing from the inside while Rush has better success writing on the outside.

Caine doesn't want Rush to write a Goddamn thing, so he has Phoenix remove everything from Rush's jail cell. Yet, that still doesn't stop Rush, who then relates the story to one prisoner, who feeds them to another until they reach Winslet and her pen. The story is supposedly so fucking lusty (something about a doctor cutting new holes in a lady) that it drives an inmate into trying to rape and killing Winslet, and the asylum goes up in flames.

That's where the movie should have ended, but it doesn't. Instead, it's where Quills gets preachy and hokey, especially during its lame-ass "ironic" ending.

The movie never makes a clear statement about freedom of speech. What's the fucking point of freedom when the movie's examples of the Marquis' pornography are about as shocking as "Nantucket" limericks? In real life, the guy was a seriously fucked-up pervert, but all this movie shows us is shit barely dirty enough to shock the bitter old prunes that normally patronize these period movies. And because the stories are so tame, and sound so unclever, it's hard to sympathize with such a loser. Who gives a flying fuck if the amateur this movie shows has lost his freedom of speech for being an asshole? I get dirtier and hornier mail from people who hate me every day.

Rush's Marquis is especially unsympathetic. He chews up all the Goddamn scenery and then starts gnawing away at the floors and walls. It's to Quills credit that they portray the Marquis as unlikeable and that the consequences of his actions are clear. But Rush is also unlikeable; screaming, yelling, prancing about like a goat with barb wire up its ass, and never once being any more than an actor acting actorly. The man-lovers in my readership may be interested to know that Rush has his cock and balls on prominent display, and they're furrier than a collie in winter.

Kate Winslet is very good as the chambermaid, and not just because her exposed tits are Grade AA (holy shit, I can still hear them calling out to me, "Filthy, come squeeze us, we're lonely"). While Rush has the easy job of acting like a kook the entire time, she does a wonderful job growing from naïve to wary, yet still horny. That's my kind of girl.

Phoenix isn't convincing as a sincere and confused priest. The guy just naturally drips with creepiness, and his sorry-ass British accent only enforces my belief that he's a phony. In his scenes with Rush he can't keep up, but he sure as hell tries. Caine is just a cheap device. If a movie has a pervert it wants to defend, it must have a hypocritical Puritan to get a comeuppance, and that's all he is, a cartoonish villain who gets set up and knocked down several times like a drunk with twenty dollar bills at the Arvada Tavern.

My biggest bitch is that the story is a fucking steamroller, flattening everything in order to make its "big ironic point." It's one of those endings that gets called "delicious" by those uppity fucks on PBS pledge drives, but it's forced and improbable. It's just phony hooey that preaches to the converted, like patting its highbrow audience on the back for being as daring as the drunk who buys a copy of "Gents - The Home of the D-Cup" at the liquor store.

Two fingers for Quills and I bet the Marquis could find better uses for them than the makers of this dull preach-fest. For God's sake, Hollywood, at least try to shock us.

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