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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Quills: Special Edition
Quills: Special Edition
Fox
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 25, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


Actor Geoffrey Rush really broke out from "Shine", but there have been a great deal of performances since, in films like "Shakespeare In Love" and "Elizabeth" to mainstream fare such as "Mystery Men" and "House On Haunted Hill". But, it's with the Marquis De Sade that Rush really gets a chance to go wild with a character and the results are highly entertaining in director Phillip Kaufman's "Quills".

The film starts off telling us about another fine mess that the Marquis has gotten himself into. He has been writing rather naughty novels that have been smuggled out by servant girl Madeline(Kate Winslet). The popularity of the novels has been going up and up - the Marquis is barely able to keep up with the demand. Readers are shocked, but they want more.


Things become a little more dangerous when Napoleon gets a hold of the writings and sends of Dr. Royer-Collard(Michael Caine) to make sure that the Marquis is stopped from writing any further. Collard believes that more painful methods can and should be used to stop people like the Marquis from doing such things. So starts a battle of wills between the two, with the Marquis being more than willing to stand up to the attempts to stop his work. Caught in the battle between the two is Father Coulmier(Joaquin Phoenix)

Rush is nothing short of wonderful as De Sade, an electric, energetic performance that gives it all a kick of humor. Yes, the character remains "toned down" for this outing, but I'm not suprised as the film probably had to go for an "R" rating and not further than that. Kate Winslet gives another remarkably good performance as Madeline, who remains loyal and strong-willed, if still subtle. Phoenix is excellent as usual as the Father who at first encourages the Marquis to purge his demons through his writing, then finds himself trying to silence De Sade's work.


The film is also technically superb. Strong editing from Peter Boyle, delightfully moody cinematography from Roger Stoffiers as well as good costume and set design. An additional, although rather basic compliment was that I never looked at my watch during the running time, which flys by rapidly, as I found the characters and situations wonderfully compelling.


The DVD


VIDEO: Fox is getting better and better with every new release, and this transfer of "Quills" provides evidence towards that statement. Their anamorphic transfer in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio looks simply marvelous, and that's saying quite a bit, as "Quills" remains not a visually marvelous looking picture in the first place. Sharpness is not too sharp, but not soft, either - the image looks just right, with good detail and nice depth & good shadow detail.

What takes it all to the next level is the almost complete lack of flaws. Pixelation and edge enhancement do not appear throughout the film, and there's only a couple of extremely tiny print flaws to be found. This makes for a stellar presentation that looks natural and clear.

Colors? Well, as I was saying before, "Quills" is not always a visually lovely film - many of the interior shots have a rather sea-green look to them. Yet, there are a few other moments throughout the movie that look more vibrant. Flesh tones remain natural and realistic, and black level looks solid. Not quite the studio's best work, but a wonderful job with the material.


SOUND: "Quills" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and while the majority of the film is dialogue-driven, thankfully the film does take its opportunities to expand beyond a more basic audio experience. The music occasionally plays nicely from the surrounds, and there are some ambient sounds that they offer (there's a nice storm towards the end), as well. Dialogue is clearly presented, and sounded natural, as if the speakers were talking in these large, cavernous rooms.

MENUS:: Fox has made some fine animated menus in the past, but their work for "Quills", with elgant, haunting animation on the main menu, is one of their best.

EXTRAS::

Trailers/Ads: The film's strong theatrical trailer (full-frame/2.0), a Spanish trailer and a TV spot, as well as a "music promo spot".

Commentary: This is a commentary from writer Doug Wright. Writers, depending on their working relationship with the director, are sometimes let onto the set of the film, and sometimes not. In this case, it seems as if writer Doug Wright worked quite well with director Kaufman, as he's able to recall a good deal of information about the production. He also talks in detail about working with the film's actors. There are some pauses throughout the track, but I found that, overall, it provided interesting moments and some solid insights about the story and characters.

The Marquis On the Marquee: A very entertaining and interesting piece on the making of the film. It does discuss the story much in a similar way to how the "promotional" pieces go about doing so, but the actors do speak intelligently about the project and provide enough insight to make it all worthwhile viewing.

Creating Charenton & Dressing The Part: These are two additional featurettes that visit with the production and costume designers, who take us through their roles in the film.

Also: Still gallery, fact & film text.


Final Thoughts: Phillip Kaufman has made a wonderfully entertaining, engaging and dramatic feature that offers several stand-out performances and good, contemporary points about censorship. I wish I had caught the film when it was in theaters. Fox offers a very fine disc, indeed; excellent image and sound quality along with several interesting supplements make this a disc well worth watching. Street date: May 8, 2001.

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