1989, R Directed by Henri Xhonneux. Starring Philippe Bizot, Bien De Moor, Gabrielle Van Damme, Olivier Dechaveau, Bernard Cognaux, Pierre Decuypere.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Sept. 4, 1992
Definitely not for everyone, the very ribald French film Marquis would be pornographic but for the fact that its performers don the masks and costumes of barnyard creatures. Like some kinky Wind in the Willows conceived by Luis Buñuel, the film is a perverse philosophical meditation on basic human desire wearing the face of an animal. The cagy masks designed by Roland Topor define the characters in an uncanny fashion: the bovine Justine, the rat-faced Ambert, the porcine Horace Pigonou, the canine-featured Marquis. Although Marquis has decidedly political overtones -- set just prior to the fall of the Bastille, it's rife with proletariat rhetoric -- its unabashed, cartoony sexuality will make even the prurient eyebrow arch. (A scene in which a lobster is used to bugger a willing but unsuspecting Ambert is unbelievable.) Indeed, the film's most memorable scenes are played between the imprisoned Marquis -- as in “de Sade” -- and his uncircumcised penis, a large and erect fellow frustrated with his owner's propensity to relieve himself through his writings as opposed to other means. Their matter-of-fact conversations (it takes getting used to seeing the almost disembodied Colin -- the name of the Marquis' member -- pop up at will) focus on the complicated relationship between the libido and the intellect: who's the slave and who's the master? Or, to put it more crudely in male terms, does a man lead his dick or does it lead him? (Anyone who's ever pondered that question, regardless of his or her genitalia, will undoubtedly recognize this internal dialogue made external.) Even though Marquis is unquestionably clever in its conceits, there's something unsatisfying about it. Perhaps the distance it puts between you and its characters by virtue of its depraved fairy tale quality forecloses any reaction other than recognitions of its cleverness. Whatever the reason, make no mistake: Marquis is something completely different, in both concept and execution. After all, what other movie can you name that uses mayonnaise to lubricate the insertion of a crustacean in someone's backside?