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Reel World 

Wednesday, Jun 2 1999
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The Unbearable Lightness of Being
After months of dillydallying by Fox Searchlight, the art-house division of 20th Century Fox, and numerous leaks in the trade press, it's finally official: Philip Kaufman's next film will be Quills, an adaptation of Douglas Wright's Obie-winning play about the Marquis de Sade. Burned by previous green lights that never went into production -- Phil was, at various times, enlisted to script and direct The Alienist, The Good Shepherd, and The Runaway Jury -- his son and producer, Peter, had repeatedly refused to comment on the record until Quills was truly a done deal. At last, Peter phoned with the news just days before the duo caught a plane to London to begin pre-production.

What's the tone of the movie? "It's funny, scary, and sexy -- you know, it's the Marquis de Sade story," Peter answered. Geoffrey Rush has been cast as the prolific Marquis circa the mid-1790s, steadily writing pornography despite his confinement in a French asylum. As a doctor attempting to control de Sade, Michael Caine enlists a young priest (Joaquin Phoenix); Kate Winslet plays the lust object of both de Sade and the priest. Like Kaufman's Henry and June and Unbearable Lightness, the fact-based story uses the attempted repression of sexuality to explore the juncture between personal relationships and political forces.

Peter projects a three-month shoot beginning in mid-August at Pinewood Studios in London and surrounding locations. Oscar-winning set designer Martin Childs (Shakespeare in Love) is on board -- and so is Fox Searchlight. "We were amazed a major studio would want to make a film about the Marquis de Sade," Peter admitted. But it's not a surprise that name actors were inspired to call the Kaufmans' North Beach office and lobby for an audition: When a great American director makes his first film in six years, the industry takes notice. The question remains: Will audiences, when Quills opens late next year?

Cable Guy
Showtime's slate of original movies in 2000 features the Brothers Sheen (Emilio Estevez and Charlie) playing the Brothers Mitchell in Rated X, a sleazy tale of the San Francisco porn purveyors' rise and fall. Interesting, given Charlie's much-publicized appetite for hookers -- no doubt he'll, uh, enjoy the O'Farrell Theater when the production (presumably) shoots here for at least a couple of days. (Coincidentally, a highlight of the Mitchell Brothers' oeuvre, Behind the Green Door, screens June 25 at midnight at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.)

For those with loftier tastes, Showtime has signed S.F. fave Terence Davies (Distant Voices, Still Lives) to direct Gillian Anderson, Anthony LaPaglia, and Laura Linney in an adaptation of Edith Wharton's House of Mirth.

Where Are We
While I'm waiting for HBO to send me a tape, here's a reminder that Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's change-of-pace Extreme Games documentary premieres June 10. ... One of the genuine inspirations of the Dockers Classically Independent Film Festival this weekend is the screening of local shorts before the features. ... John Maybury's dense and wonderful video Read Only Memory opens June 5 for a lengthy run at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. ... Genuinely Bizarre Event of the Month, courtesy of the National Queer Arts Festival, is the Kuchar Brothers retrospective June 15 at the Victoria Theater. Just trust me and go. ... Anybody care to make a wager that, come June 16, Sony Metreon will have the honor of charging the highest prices in town for a movie? (I mean regular flicks, not IMAX.) A Metreon spokesperson said ticket prices had not yet been set.

By Michael Fox
foxonfilm@aol.com

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Michael Fox

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