Sade (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

We were both lukewarm about this subtitled costumer, finding plenty of things to like, but not stirred.

Scoop's comments in white:

The Marquis de Sade lived during a time of catastrophic upheaval, and so was prosecuted and imprisoned at various times by people from every point on the political spectrum, and for just about every crime and pseudo-crime you can think of, from murder, to unpaid debts, to pornography, to being a noble, to being too republican, to being insufficiently republican.

Amazingly, there was one time in his life when the Marquis was in prison for having done something truly honorable. When he was freed from prison in 1789 by the revolution, the revolutionaries recognized that he had been an enemy of the regime, and that he was an intelligent and capable man, so they awarded him many important positions in the new "republican" government from 1789-1793. They didn't realize that the marquis was basically a libertarian who wanted no restrictions on his freedom at all. He was not just an enemy of one regime, but of all regimes, including the new one. Sade simply could not abide the Reign of Terror, considering it a betrayal of the principles of free thought that had spurred the revolution to begin with. Robespierre even wanted to establish a state religion and at one point made atheism a crime! So much for the Age of Reason. When Citizen Sade sat in judgment of many ex-nobles as their Grand Juror, he almost invariably found everyone innocent of all charges against them, including even his despised in-laws, who had imprisoned him for years. As a result of his leniency, he was soon arrested himself and imprisoned for his lack of dedication to proper "Republican" principles, and his complete disdain of religion.

A young man asks de Sade, "Will you pray for him with us?"

The marquis responds, "No, I'm not superstitious."

That is where the film begins.

This movie focuses on one very narrow stretch of Sade's life, from December 1793 until July 1794, when he was incarcerated with an assortment of ex-nobles at an exclusive sort of spa/prison, a former convent. The quarters were comfortable enough, but this was during the height of Robespierre's Reign of Terror, so the nobles were simply there to await their turns at the guillotine. In the movie version of the story, Sade managed to escape the scaffold because his lover agreed to become the mistress of one of Robespierre's deputies in return for that deputy's protection of de Sade.

While de Sade was incarcerated, he kept himself busy doing what he did best: corrupting the innocent. A brilliant young girl in the next room became his constant companion, and he eventually used the imminence of death to convince her to live life to the fullest. I think you can imagine the activities involved in that.


  • Marianne Denicourt showed her very impressive breasts.
  • Isild le Pasco did a full-frontal scene.

DVD info from Amazon

  • In French with English subtitles

  • Interview with director Benoit Jacquot

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

The last twenty minutes of this film are lively and wicked and sexy, and the scenes capture Sade's essence so accurately that they could be passages in the marquis's own books. Before that, the film's treatment of the marquis is so reverent and pious that if the real de Sade had read the script, he might have pissed on it for portraying him as a serious philosopher, and a complete bore, and not as the dedicated libertine and all-around hedonistic scoundrel that he worked so hard to become.

Tuna's Thoughts

Sade is essentially a costume drama presenting Marquis de Sade as a political prisoner. At the same time, it shows the post-revolutionary chaos and cruelty under Robespierre. Sade is confined to a former nunnery which has become a prison for former nobility. He is saved from normal prison by his girlfriend, Marianne Denicourt, who is now living with one of Robespierre's officials. He forms a friendship with the young, innocent, and beautiful Isild Le Besco, much to the chagrin of her parents.

The Sade presented here was an atheist, given to excesses of the flesh, who cared deeply about his writing, but was guilty of no atrocities, other than in fantasy. As they were all awaiting the guillotine, his philosophy of indulging the flesh appealed to Le Besco, and she eventually loses her virginity to a gardener under Sade's supervision.

Le Besco garnered some new artist awards and nominations, and deserved them, but the watered-down Marquis de Sade is too bland to make it an interesting story, and it would have been a very long 100 minutes of sub-titled dialogue had it not been for two things. First, Le Besco is a beauty, and can act. Second, the photography was stunning, utilizing a beautiful color palette of blues and greens.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • It did about three million dollars in France, but never reached more than a few screens in the USA, grossing less than $100,000.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop said: "This is a C. Fair-to-middling historical drama. The first 80 minutes are too cerebral, basically a political and literary discussion for eggheads. Great performances, interesting cinematography, and a passionate final twenty minutes do finally rescue the film from that rather talky, boring beginning. It held my attention, but this is my kind of film." Tuna said,  "I should have hated a talky, subtitled costumer with very little action or pace, and didn't. Yet, with such a weak story, this is only a C.  A beautifully photographed film with an attractive star and not much substance."

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