As unique a history lesson as ever offered by the cinema, MARQUIS employs mimes in elaborate animal masks (voices dubbed by other actors) to play out the drama of the French Revolution, framed by the misunderstood philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. In this sex-and-violence puppet pageant,
he's a dupe of religious and political hypocrites willing to destroy him because of his usefulness as a scapegoat. Despite its evident peculiarities, the film never fails to fascinate, as the animal representations of historical personages transform moldy history into vivid fable.
While languishing in jail, the canine Marquis de Sade (Francois Marthouret) jots down his sexual predilections while conversing with his penis, portrayed here as a separate personality named Colin (Valerie Kling). From the outside, revolutionaries like the equine Juliette espouse pro-Republic
sentiments and plot the break-out of the lupine ex-police prefect Lupino (Roger Crouzet). Inside prison, the bovine Justine (Isabelle Caner-Wolfe) confesses to a double-dealing priest, the camel-like Don Pompero (Vicki Messica), that she has become impregnated by the King. Along with the
roosterish jail warden, Gaetan De Preaubois (Rene Lebrun), Dom Pompero schemes to blame the pregnancy on the dissolute Marquis. When Justine dies in childbirth, the rodent-like turnkey Ambert (Michel Robin) is ordered to kill the baby, but, believing it to be his own, he flees with the infant, who
was born wearing an iron mask.
True to his principles, blasphemous de Sade remains unfazed even when Dom Pompero steals his writings and makes an ongoing profit from them. During a prison break, however, De Sade, Lupino, and Pigonou (Bob Morel) are freed by Juliette, who had been visiting the Bastille to pleasure Gaetan De
Preaubois. Although Juliette and the Marquis flee in a carriage, Pigonou and Lupino are shot to death. Grief-stricken, Juliette hangs herself, only to be revived by Colin's touch. While the revolutionaries foment rebellion, Marquis generously bids adieu to Colin in a symbolic separation of spirit
and carnality. Vive la revolution!
For those whose grasp of French history is rusty, MARQUIS may initially prove rough going. Once it leaves its almost ritualistic spell, viewers will be spellbound by the grotesque animal-puppet people enacting great moments from the decline of the Ancien regime. The film's revisionist view of de
Sade as a free-thinking martyr never comes to terms with some of the vile passages in his inflammatory prose, but whether or not one appreciates de Sade's writing, the device of having human-like animals represent these famous historical types is fascinating.
A glorious freak show, MARQUIS can't quite sustain interest throughout; too many digressions--re-enactments of the Marquis' stories--slow down the film. Rather than sweep us along like traditional historical epics, this satire waxes philosophical or dwells on a character's perversity in ways
that are faithful to de Sade but not dramatically powerful. Reservations aside, MARQUIS may not build to a crescendo, but it does achieve muted brilliance. If all the world's a barnyard, these pigs, cows, roosters, dogs, foxes, etc. hold a mirror up to human nature and reveal an inhuman face. In
its dissection of the Bawdy Politic, MARQUIS is insightful and penetrating moviemaking, satire of a high order. (Violence, excessive profanity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: NR
- Review: As unique a history lesson as ever offered by the cinema, MARQUIS employs mimes in elaborate animal masks (voices dubbed by other actors) to play out the drama of the French Revolution, framed by the misunderstood philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. In this… (more)