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Nominated for an Academy Award(R) (Best Foreign Language Film, 1996) and honored by critics as one of the year's 10 best motion pictures, RIDICULE is an exceptionally entertaining tale of passion and deceit! In a desperate quest to save his hometown, a young man quickly learns that a sharp wit is the key to open any door in the Versailles court of Louis XVI! But his mission is complicated when he finds himself locked in a dangerous triangle with two very seductive ladies: a sophisticated older woman who can help him ... and an innocent young beauty with nothing to offer but her love! Wickedly funny humor and outstanding performances highlight this must-see triumph!
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Charles Berling, as Le Marquis Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy, is the French equivalent of an English country squire. The peasants on his estate are dying of diseases cause by a mosquito-infested swamp on his estate. He goes to Versailles to petition the king for funds to drain the swamp and save the lives of his peasants.
He arrives naively thinking that a straightforward discussion of the merits of his engineering project will win him the necessary funds. He is soon disabused of that notion by the disdainful bureaucrats who inhabit different wings of the Versailles castle. By chance he is fortunately taken under the wing of an experienced doctor and courtier, Le Marquis de Bellegarde, played by the excellent Jean Rochefort.
The doctor tutors de Malavoy in the ways of the court, where only wit and ridicule matter. De Malavoy finds that the only way to obtain funds for a practical project like draining a swamp is to become a favorite at court, where one must must be witty and lucky rather than smart and good. De Malavoy sets out to accomplish his practical goal which can only be achieved by engaging in an absurd gamesmanship wholly unrelated to dying peasants or the general good. Wit gains favor and funding, ridicule results in banishment from the court.
De Malavoy is fortunate to have the wit necessary to thrive at court and to catch the attention of one of the king's beautiful courtesans, Madame de Blayac, played by the gorgeous Fanny Ardant. Madame can make or break him. His relationship with her and the doctor's beautiful daughter, Mathilde (Judith Godreche), is the pivot point of the story. De Malavoy is called upon to put means over the end in order to save his loyal peasantry.
You will have to see the movie to discover whether de Malavoy is able to finally drain the swamp. History shows, of course, that the swamp that was Louis XVI's court was eventually drained; by the ridiculed peasants of the French Revolution. The corruption and cynicism of a dying regime and its court are wonderfully captured in "Ridicule". Both history and art are well-served in this movie.
So I'm pissed.
Many were surprisingly enthusiastic! The film is witty, creul and unrelenting--high entertainment for anyone who wants escape from a world of mutants and exploding cars into a world of wit,elegance and grace, with a lesson in the real ways of the world thrown in!
Charles Berling is the impoverished minor aristocrat seeking royal patronage for a drainage project to stop his peasants from dropping like flies only to discover that the only way to get near to the King in a world where wit opens any door is to demonstrate a sharper and more malicious tongue than those around him. Tutored in the rules of engagement by Jean Rochefort's friendly courtier and both championed and checked by Fanny Ardant's court predator, he briefly finds himself a sensation in a world where honesty and wit are so rarely combined, only to find himself heading for a fall.
While it's a cut above the usual dry costume drama and passes the time more than pleasantly enough, it never quite escapes the feeling of a safe and predictable morality tale while at times the wit could be sharper and the venom more prominent. There are some fine moments and Ardant gets a great screen entrance, her servants blowing powder over her naked body, but at the end of the day it manages to be a curious mixture of both a mildly satisfying diversion and slightly less than the sum of its parts. Very much like the Court of Versailles itself...
Whereas Second Sight's UK PAL DVD boasts a very good 52-minute documentary on the making of the film, Miramax's Region 1 NTSC DVD is strictly barebones with no extras, but does have a decent 2.35:1 widescreen transfer.