The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade

1967 Movie Club Selection

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

First things first--I don't remember the character's name, but there's a guy in this thing who has the best hair ever.

There are a great deal of words in this thing. Some, especially a lot of the ones that were sung, were incomprehensible. And a lot of them flew right over my little head. I was in bad need of subtitles to help me out. Even with subtitles, I doubt I'm intelligent enough to attempt swimming in the various layers of Marat/Sade. Freewill vs. predetermination, the power of the individual vs. the community, equality, freedom, justice, censorship, nihilism. Heavy stuff, and this is a challenging and intense experience. Draining even. The style instantly draws you in, almost makes you feel trapped in there with the inmates of the asylum. The single setting is sparse, but I like how some of the features of the bath house are utilized. The camera's definitely not afraid to get right in there, allow you to get intimate with the crevices of the actors' faces. At times, this is almost a movie you can smell. There are a couple of scenes that I just loved. First a "Marat Nightmare" scene with steamy effects, demonic silhouettes, and disorienting music. The second was a scene that started with a chant (in rounds) about "general copulation" and ended with some hot dry-humping orgy action. The ensemble cast is excellent. Patrick Magee is haunting as the Marquis, and I also liked Ian Richardson as the other titular character. My favorite characters, other than the hair guy, were the clown-make-upped chorus that would pop up and sing the weird little songs. Marat/Sade is heady stuff, but it's impossible to take your eyes off the screen as the camera maneuvers through all those crazy mo-fos. It's intoxicating and exhausting, and I wish I was enough of an intellectual to fully appreciate it.

So, fellow Movie Clubbers, what did all y'all think?


Barry said...

I would give this one a 14, simply on freak appeal. It had some interesting ideas, but it also demonstrated the worst traits of art house type movies. You dont want to just say something, when being obtuse is more fun.

I actually liked the songs, but by the end I was really worn out. Plus I didnt like that almost everyone seemed to have the exact same form of mental illness, with the exact same symptoms. Things like that always bug me.

It is certainly something that sticks with you, but its so unrelentingly ugly that I was alternating between being bored, to being shocked, to being bored again.

Interesting pick.....something that I will never bother to watch again, but something I am glad I sat through.

cory said...

First, let me say this was a very interesting and challenging choice. I have not seen anything quite like it and it certainly must have been shocking for it's time.

There were some things I had an issue with. Like our host, I desperately needed subtitles, especially during the songs. I didn't buy that the nobleman would allow his wife and child to remain in the room as things occassionally got a little out of control (at one point, one of the inmates cups the daughter's breasts for a prolonged period of time). I also didn't buy the riot at the end. Part of this was probably due to 1966 censorship limitations, but it all felt fake.

That said, I still really liked the intelligence of the film. The dialogue was terrific. It was almost unique in the way I could almost hear and feel the violence, chaos, and power of the actual revolution simply from the words spoken by the two leads. They would make speeches, and echoes of the horrors and the power struggles were easily felt. Great stuff.

The acting by the Marat and Marquis' characters, as well as an amazing Glenda Jackson, were perfect.

"Marat/Sade"'s presentation is a bit gimmicky, and often rings false, but the power behind the words and the performances are first rate, and earn it a 16.

Shane said...

Forgot to mention--I love the long-ass title. Actually, I love any excuse to throw out the hypenated word "long-ass"...

I agree with both of you though my rating is the same as Cory's. I didn't think of their mental illnesses all being the same, Barry, but it's an interesting point. I'm not sure it matters actually, but I remember some differences--narcolepsy, the desire to hump anything that moved, thinking you're a clown and singing everything (four of them had that one). But yeah, a lot of them just stood around with bad posture and stared at walls.

I liked the songs, too. I just wish I could hear the words better. Definitely a movie I would have watched with the subtitles on if I had that option.

I didn't think about whether or not the riot felt fake. There was adequate chaos on the "stage," so the point was being made. I really liked that final shot of the silhouetted audience watching all that take place and not really being able to do anything. I'm sure there's a symbolic point there, but again, I'm not smart enough to get it. Those layers though! You've got a story within another story. And you've got an audience (us) watching another audience (them) watching the performers (the inmates) acting out a revolution. Interesting.

I did wish the movie was a bit shorter. There were some lulls. And like Barry, I did feel worn out by the end.

Those breasts were out there anyway. She was asking for them to be cupped. I have no worries typing that, by the way, since Movie Club is a total sausage fest.

If I was Netflix, I'd have a "You might also enjoy" message with 'Quills' and Svankmajer's 'Lunacy'...I don't remember the former enough to connect the two though I do remember being a little bored with it.

Anonymous? Bring it.

mark said...

okay i wanted to say my piece before i read shanes review. i am going to give this the benefit of the doubt and give it a 20. i say this because my copy is awful and if it were cleaned up it would be incredible.
the guy that plays de sade was nawful in "clockword orange" almost laughable but in this is awesome.
and the woman that plays charolette corday is one of my fav acting performances of all time. up there with fellini's wife in la strada and the drag queen in Ran. i will sift through responses and respond more in full later

Shane said...

No, I think it was supposed to look like that. Makes it all gritty...

I saw that he was in 'Clockwork' but I didn't recognize him.

Maybe it's just a case of me "misreading" another movie, but I thought all the characters in 'Ran' were drag queens.

A 20? That's something like your third ever, isn't it?

mark said...

i don't agree that all of the mental patients seemed to be suffering from the same illness. i worked at mental hospital for a year and was a psych major for a bit and i felt they were varied and well enough done, but this gets into the how many children had lady macbeth kind of argument in that it doesnt really matter(nor does the asylum director and his wife and child being in the action).
a little history this was written as a play first and was adapted to the big screen. it is shot like we are watching a staged production of it. the dialogue is more play than movie.
this film isnt exactly going to wash over you and suck you into its world. it is difficult you have to bring a little bit to the table. i love french literature from this time period including desade so have some idea of the numerous frecnh revalutions and the philosphy of desade(this is a great homage). i dont know if that helps or hurts.

Shane said...

Sometimes, these "play" movies are problematic.

Your love of the literature likely aids and intesifies your love for the movie. I, as you know, barely know how to read. I've read de Sade though, but that was just because I'm a pervert.

Lady Macbeth? What?

Wait a WORKED in a mental institution? I thought you were a patient. I think what Barry probably meant was that all the mental patients who were kind of on the fringe (the lunatic fringe!) who had little or no speaking parts all seemed the same. They just kind of blended into the background. If they all had different mental illnesses, that probably would have been insanely distracting.

I don't think Kairow was able to watch this. (He did watch and enjoy 'Field of Dreams,' by the way, but an ice storm messed up his Internet and he missed the conversation.) I don't guess Larry or Rubber Duck checked it out either?

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