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on June 13, 2010
This is a wonderful depiction of the consequences of a massive disconnect between the "haves" and "have nots" in a society. The consequences of the great disconnect in the France of Louis XVI are amply documented in history books. The movie is beautifully shot as a historical period piece. The cinematography is lush and sensual in its tone. It's message, however, is not confined to the time period.

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.
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on February 22, 2007
RIDICULE is an orignal and "one-of-a-kind" film whose subject matter is the elaborate and brilliant use of language. Oh, yes, it's also about the intrigues and nastiness of the royal court in the early days of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and it's also one of the most accurate and believable re-creations of what life must have been like then. It captures attitudes about ideas and snobbery, about skill and competition that is in another ballpark from Sophia Coppola's re-creation of the time. The characters in her film would stand tonge-tied in front of any characters in this film and be held up to ridicule. One of the most dazzling scenes in the film is a contest in which dinner guests must create rhymed couplets on a subject given them--in meter and context--where they get to be clever, brilliant and contemplative. At a recent showing to American high school students, the reaction was one of astonishment--it opened a world of expression the kids could not have imagined ever existed.

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!
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Sometimes with movie distribution, as with humour, timing is everything. Patrice Leconte's Ridicule is a long way from the best work from almost anyone involved, yet still proved a major arthouse success outside France, picking up Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Foreign Film, winning a BAFTA as well as a nomination for the Palme D'Or at Cannes and winning four Cesars, including Best Film and Best Director, as well as another eight nominations in France itself. All of which leaves you with the suspicion that it couldn't have been up against much competition that year. It's certainly not a bad film, but at times it's almost as slight as its subject - the rules of wit and ridicule at the Court of Versailles under King Louis XVI, where you live or die by the readiness of your wit and where a single misstep can cast you into oblivion.

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.
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on March 24, 2017
Excellent movie. Captures the court culture of Versailles during the reign of Louis XVI of France at the eve of its revolutionary period.
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on December 3, 2016
Inside the lives of the rich and famous in old France, but nothing has really changed in modern times. Gossip and how you look still rule the roost
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on May 30, 2016
It was fine - thank you.
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on August 19, 2015
However, the version sent to me is unplayable on my Blu Ray machine
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on May 2, 2013
If you enjoy French history, or just love period style movies, you'll love this one. It has English subtitles, but they are not hard to follow at all. This movie ranks right up there in my list of favorites.
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on August 5, 2005
This is a classic, and one of the best period movies I have ever seen. The script is clever and witty and the performances are peerless. You will not be disappointed if you like sexual and political intrigue mixed in with brilliant dialogue set in 18th century France.
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on May 6, 2007
This movie excels! Production values, writing, razor sharp wit and period authenticity. Too bad Hollywood can't make them like this without dumbing everything down. If you love foreign movies or even just good movies, you wil love this one.
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