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||IMDB Rating: 7.4/10 from 5,745 votes
||Release: 19 June 1997 (Netherlands) /
||Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
||Director: Patrice Leconte,
||Stars: Albert Delpy, Bernard Dhéran, Bernard Giraudeau, Bruno Zanardi, Carlo Brandt, Charles Berling, Fanny Ardant, Jacques Mathou, Jacques Roman, Jean Rochefort, Judith Godrèche, Marie Pillet, Maurice Chevit, Philippe Magnan, Urbain Cancelier
||Synopsis: In the periwigged and opulent France of Louis XVI, an unwitting nobleman soon discovers that survival at court demands both a razor wit and an acid tongue. Written by Dawn M. Barclift
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This reminds me a lot of Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Valmont (1989)
in its cynicism and sharp wit. Set in France during the same time
period (the eve of the French Revolution--that's the eighteenth
century, reviewers), Ridicule concentrates not so much on sexual
intrigues (although there is plenty of that) but on cynical wit as
though in homage to Voltaire, France's master of satire whose spirit is
First a warning. Don't let the rather gross crudity of the opening
scene mislead you. That is meant merely as satire, not as a presaging
of further crudities to come. It is also meant as a kind of cinematic
joke since there is no comparable female nudity in the entire film.
Indeed, there is no comparable, shall we say "expression," anywhere in
legitimate filmdom that I am aware of. So let it pass or close your
Charles Berling stars as Gregoire Ponceludon de Malavoy, a country
engineer who comes to Versailles to get financial backing to drain a
swamp to save the peasants who are dying of mosquito-borne disease.
("Peasants feed aristocrats as well as mosquitos.") He discovers very
quickly that a way to an audience with Louis XVI is through gaining a
reputation as a clever courtier. Guided by M. Bellegarde (Jean
Rochefort), a retired courtier himself, Ponceludon quickly picks up the
games of wit and ridicule that reign at court. His quick and clever
mind and youthful good looks gain the attention of the king's mistress,
Madame de Blayac (Fanny Ardant) who demonstrates how access to the king
can come through her bedroom. Ponceludon is sincere only in his desire
to drain the swamp and so readily allows himself to become another of
Blayac's lovers in exchange for a chance to present his program to
At the same time he meets Bellegarde's daughter Mathide (Judith
Godrèche), an idealistic beauty with a scientific bent, who is
betrothed to a dying old man of wealth and position. They fall in love,
but their differing agendas keep them apart.
What makes this film such a delight is the delicious way it satirizes
the decadent court of Louis XVI. The dramatic irony is superb and
absolute in the sense that at no time does director Patrice Leconte
give even the slightest hint that any of the byzantine sycophants at
court are aware that Danton and the Terror await them. Throw in the
impending Industrial (and scientific) Revolution symbolized in the form
of Ponceludon and Mathide, and the ancien régime with its antiquated
feudal titles and corrupt privilege is seen for what it was, a
parasitic anachronism, ripe to rot for destruction.
The sets, the direction and especially the acting are excellent.
Veteran Rochefort is particularly good in a part that depends on a
directive and expressive face amid the whispers at court. Berling is
smooth and believable as a man with a noble mission, adroit at
repartee, love and dueling, a modest and earnest hero.
Godrèche is good, but seems a little restrained here. She is an
impossibly healthy, handsome beauty no man could resist. I first saw
her as a 17-year-old in The Disenchanted (1990) where her adolescent
charm was carefully and craftily displayed by director Benoît Jacquot.
Here Leconte concentrates on her strength of character.
Fanny Ardant's Madame de Blayac is a Machiavellian mistress of love's
duplicity, very much like the Marquise de Merteuil from Dangerous
Liaisons and Valmont. Her performance compares favorably with that of
Glenn Close and Annette Bening, respectively, although there is an
earthy quality to Ardant that seems most realistic. Her character is
also more vulnerable.
The sets are sumptuous without being artificially showy. The gray,
high-topped wigs and the beaked-nosed masks at ball are charming and,
along with the gilded attire, the caked makeup, etc., somehow suggest
the true state of costume and personal hygiene circa 1784, reminding me
that in those days people did not generally wear underpants or take
Some bon mots:
"The soul of wit is to know one's place."
When asked by the king to say something witty about the king himself,
Ponceludon returns: "The king is not a subject." The king asks if this
is not a (lowly) pun, but is assured that it is a "play on words."
When Blayac discerns that Ponceludon is not entirely smitten with her,
she responds, "Learn to hide your insincerity so that I may yield
The film closes with a scene in England on a cliff overlooking the
English channel. Bellegarde and another reflect on the changes after
the revolution: "Wit was the very air we breathed." "Now the bloated
rhetoric of Danton rules in place of wit." Bellegarde's hat is blown
off by the wind. His companion remarks: "Better your hat than your
By the way, the subtitles (and this is usually not the case) are
excellent, inventive and faithful enough, while comfortably brief, to
have been done by a professional translator instead of by someone handy
who is passably bilingual.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut
to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it
Tags for Ridicule Full Movie
, Bernard Dhéran
, Bernard Giraudeau
, Bruno Zanardi
, Carlo Brandt
, Charles Berling
, Fanny Ardant
, Jacques Mathou
, Jacques Roman
, Jean Rochefort
, Judith Godrèche
, Marie Pillet
, Maurice Chevit
, Philippe Magnan
, Urbain Cancelier
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