Generally favorable reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17

Critic Reviews

  1. 80
    In keeping with his concept that the mind and the body are inseparable, Sade builds to an extraordinarily powerful centerpiece when the two come together, fusing fear and desire, pleasure and pain, innocence and enlightenment.
  2. What an amazing little film. God love the French. They make movies with ideas in them, other than: How many cars can we blow up?
  3. In its quiet, literate way, the film is almost as subversive as its central character.
  4. 75
    Sensationalism and doom are not on screen here; Jacquot offers a relatively peaceful moment in Sade's life.
  5. 75
    Auteuil gives a superior performance. While Rush played him as a buffoon, Auteuil gives the character the charm of an aristocratic savant.
  6. The Marquis de Sade makes for entertaining screen time, as the jovially subversive "Quills" proved a few years ago. For a more subdued version of the infamous writer's life, there's French director Benoit Jacquot's Sade --praised as the more "realistic" of the two and criticized for being dry and overly intellectual.
  7. 63
    A fine, handsome-looking costume drama that works best as a historical account of a brutal era. But as a portrait of the Marquis de Sade, it is not titillating in the over-the-top manner of "Quills."
  8. 63
    Is it about a moment in history and how the life of a sexual predator fits into that moment? Or is it just about a director's sexual fantasy? The answers are somewhat fuzzy.
  9. Despite Auteuil's performance, it's a rather listless amble down the middle of the road, where the thematic ironies are too obvious and the sexual politics too smug.
  10. In any case, this is the image of the marquis we would know had he been handled by a top publicity team.
  11. Although the movie adheres more closely to history than "Quills," it lacks dramatic punch and depth.
  12. 60
    Interestingly, the real horror lies in the film's depiction of the era: The sight of guillotined bodies -- naked, headless and dumped under the shady trees of Picpus -- is truly shocking. Rarely has the horror of the Terror been so graphically and effectively evoked.
  13. 60
    If you're looking for thrills, you should know that you have to wade through a good seven-eighths of the movie before Sade does anything remotely disreputable, and even then it's a rather mechanical bit of business that would have been more effective (and more disturbing) if it had been handled with a bit of humor.
  14. 50
    Too bland and fustily tasteful to be truly prurient, Sade moves along at a reasonable clip, goosed by claps of gothic lighting, solemn chords, and amplified sound effects.
  15. Auteuil is a superb actor. Still, the real-life Sade would be dismayed to see himself portrayed more as an eccentric old codger than the world-changing firebrand he worked hard to be.
  16. Achieves the near-impossible: It turns the Marquis de Sade into a dullard.

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