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Sexual Reeling

Philip Kaufman's Quills is a harsh, lush lecture on sensuality and censorship.

Kate Winslet airs some dirty laundry in  Quills.
Kate Winslet airs some dirty laundry in Quills.

To be sure, Kaufman has a great talent for exploring wanton appetites and sexual disparities, as evidenced in his adaptation of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being and, of course, the diaries of Anaïs Nin (Henry and June). However, in a culture in which the infidelities of Bill Clinton and Hugh Grant have only enhanced their public stature, and in which Larry Flynt's clarion call of "Relax -- it's just sex" seems fairly well embraced by the masses, the director now comes across as an old-fashioned hippie bellowing for free love. True, Quills pushes buttons and tickles us with its dark prurience, but because its central conflict is so glaringly obvious, its protagonist so immensely unappealing, the themes lose much of their impact. Hardly revolutionary, merely quaint, Quills is unlikely to "make the angels weep and the saints all gasp for air." But it should titillate the Bible Belt.

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