Justine de Sade is a French telling of
Justine, one of the two
stories that got the infamous Marquis de Sade jailed.
The film opens with France Verdier entering a whorehouse from a
convent, after being orphaned. The madam agrees to teach her the
ropes, assuring her success in life. Cut to the future, where she is
obviously well off, and stops in a public house. Two guards bring in
Justine (Alice Arno), who is on her way to be executed for crimes she
didn't commit. Verdier gets permission to hear her story. She was
orphaned and left with only modest funds, which soon were gone, and
tried to find honest work. Every place she tried heaped indignity,
sexual excess, and all manor of perversion on her, although she only
wanted to save her virginity and find a decent life.
The basic theme of the film is one of de Sade's fundamental tenets:
virtue will always be punished. For the most part, this idea is
expressed by having virtuous woman being abused and punished by
abusive men. In de Sade's playbook, nature intended men to abuse
women, or women wouldn't have been designed to be inferior and weaker.
The decade beginning in 1969 was the golden age of de Sade films,
which is not surprising given that it was a time of sexual and
thematic permissiveness following decades of repression. Jess Franco also tackled the same
unpleasant source material in his 1968 Justine (Deadly Sanctuary), as did Joe D'Amato in
1975's Justine and the Whip, and Chris Boger in 1977's Cruel Passion.
Even mainstream Hollywood stars like Kier Dullea and John Huston got
in the act in 1969's De Sade, which combined biographical exposition
from the Marquis's life with scenarios from his books, implying that
perhaps they were one and the same.
There is a good deal of confusion on several websites among the
many de Sade films from that Marquis-strewn decade. This one is
probably the best film of the group, and is certainly the most
faithful to the source material. The uncensored version pulls few of its punches. The
scene that earned the X rating is either a monastery orgy or the scene
where Justine is given communion by having a host inserted in her
rectum and then being sodomized by one of the monks. This reflects the
actual depraved and cruel thought process of the real Marquis de Sade, not the
rascally fictional character presented in Quills. The film's strict
adherence to the source novel is both a good and a bad
thing. Accuracy may be a virtue, but as the Marquis himself would note,
overrated. The film did stop short of showing enough to sate the true
sadist, but the tone is such that I doubt many will find it erotic.
You aren't human if you don't feel sorry for Justine by the end of the
If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to
explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by
our definition, a
C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs
and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: