Ridicule (1996) Poster

(1996)

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6/10
Off-piste for me, or vice-versa
chaswe-2840228 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
For some reason I didn't take to this film, and I don't precisely know why. This is my attempt to explain my distaste. I find this period in French history distinctly off-putting. All the films set in this place and during this period turn me off. There always seem to me far, far better things to do than sit my way through them. The liaisons are not enthralling, and never strike me as threatening or risky in the slightest.

Both females here were very attractive, however, and pleasant to look at. None of the men struck me as anything but hideous, monstrous and grotesque. That even includes the hero, although he was more acceptable than the rest of the bunch. Not exactly Delon or Belmondo, however. Perhaps he was deliberately chosen to be uncharismatic. With regard to the others, their fat or wizened faces, clothes, over-fed figures, giggles and lipstick merely made me want to look away. Also. the vaunted wit never seemed to me very witty. In fact, it seemed quite feeble. I assume it always was. The moral of the story, and of the impending revolution, was unsubtle and unengaging. We're agreed the set-up was rotten: what else is there to say ? Capitalism continues, though its frivolous depravity is not quite so public. The best review comes from a Frenchman, from Paris, who points out that in many ways the movie is just not historically correct. Somebody also writes that the connection between mosquitos and malaria was not discovered until 50 years later. It was worth seeing for the general ambiance, and the fancy clothes, just, but it'll be a long time before I watch it again. A lot of effort clearly went into it.
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6/10
Wit!
gavin694223 March 2016
To get royal backing on a needed drainage project, a poor French lord must learn to play the delicate games of wit at court at Versailles.

Now, I know what I am supposed to enjoy about this film is the game of wits played between all these wealthy French folks. And to a certain extent I do. I really enjoyed the rhyming contest, for example. And it made me wonder how the translator handled that, because the subtitles rhymed, but could not possibly have matched the original French.

But what I actually liked most was the diving suit. That may be stupid, but as a genre fan, I love seeing makeup and costumes, and this old suit really looked great... sort of a sea monster meets robot look to it. Very cool.
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Direction Clouds The Film's Chance At Something Special
RyanCShowers18 September 2013
From the eye-popping opening sequence, one could misinterpret Ridicule as a joke and maybe even a satire; thankfully that's not the case. The opening scene has a tone that differs from the film itself, to catch our eye or to draw our interests in a particular direction, as long as you keep your head above the spice of two minute experience, you will adjust to the rest of the film with ease.

The lack of focus and direction is the problem with the first half of Ridicule. The film has trouble identifying its plot and characters to the audience, not artistically introducing them or having significant meaning underneath the mise-en-scene, but in the simpler ways of tell the story itself to the viewer. The jumbled editing, mixed with the fast pace directing, leaves the viewer in ambiguous territory.

Ridicule does redeem itself in its second half by continuing to grow and play with its characters. The characters are well penned, as are the ideas of the story. To comprehend the absurdity of the film's context is to understand French culture at the time Ridicule takes place and the upper class's failure to conjure up a meaning of life other than trying to defame other people of stature.

I enjoyed Ridicule and respect it more as I think back on everything that went into making the film. The sets and costumes fit the time well, it's a pleasant film to look at, and the acting (though nothing sterling) meets the requirements of the script. Take your time, have patience, and Ridicule could be a respectable film.

Rating: 7

Grade: B+
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7/10
Good but social messages mess it up
filmalamosa7 July 2012
Court of Louis XVI 6 years prior to the Bastille. A country Baron Gregoire Ponceludon de Malavoy wants to drain swamps on his land and needs help from the government he is turned down and appeals to the King. What trying to do that was like is the gist of the film.

Wonderful portrayal of the decadent lives lived by courtesans at that time. Wit (Esprit) was an admired quality often leading to-- Ridicule--of the victim(s).

There are too many wonderful scenes to count but here is where the movie messes up = it gets into womens lib (Matilde the scientist) and social justice themes (the deaf) too much they were not needed and extremely unlikely.

Although life at Versailles was exaggerated that can go as an artistic point (to make things funnier and more outrageous)...but the odds of Ponceludon succeeding in his swamp work during the decade after the revolution are zero.

If you can over look these story flaws it is an entertaining movie.

Recommend
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10/10
Wit is the opposite of lust, the quickest, the best ...
ElMaruecan8221 May 2012
I wanted to says "whoever lived by the word, would perish by the word' but among the many lessons Patrice Leconte's "Ridicule" taught me is that pun is regarded as the death of wit.

"WIT ELUDES US SOMETIMES"

In French, there are two kinds of wit: the repartee and the 'stairs' wit. One is the ability to come up with the right witty remark as self-defense, while the other always comes to mind, when we're 'going down the stairs' and then the flash of wit blinds us: "damn, that's what I should have said". The thrilling aspect of "Ridicule" is that it turns a rather benign theme into a life-and-death situation, when the hero's mission depends on his wit and being ridiculed would be his failure.

"PEASANTS NOT ONLY FEED MOSQUITOES BUT ARISTOCRATS"

The tag-line of Patrice Leconte's masterpiece magnificently contradicts a famous French saying, by stating that 'Ridicule can kill', literally and symbolically. Literally, because some remarks can knock down any person and follow him the rest of his life, while symbolically, it can make a social status collapse and undermine the realization of subsequent projects, no matter how noble and thoughtful they are. And the project in "Ridicule" belongs to a rural aristocrat, Gregoire Ponceludon de Malavoy, more than a gifted engineer, a decent man who cares for peasants, victims of mosquitoes-infested swamps in his region, the Dombes. Ponceludon needs money to drain the swamps, a costly project that only the King, fond on scientific innovations, can fund. The peasants' lives depend on Gregoire's ability to make his place in Versailles, in the King's Court, such a morally corrupted words that the stinks of the swamps seem more breathable.

"I NEVER LIVED IT DOWN"

To understand the violent nature inherent to this world where the word can be mightier than the sword, the film opens with quite a spectacular scene. A man comes to visit an elderly dying aristocrat: Mr. de Bleyac, confined in a chair, and then urinates on him, a late reply to a humiliating 'bon mot' uttered in the past. Ridicule is indeed the worst curse that can ever strike an aristocrat in Versailles. Bleyac happened to be Ponceludon's contact in Versailles, "You'll recognize him by his widow." said the Marquis de Bellegarde (Jean Rochefort), a doctor and eternal admirer (and not bad practicer) of wit and humor, and the widow is Fanny Ardant, magnificent as ever, as Madame de Bleyac, the powerful woman who can use her wits and charms to make any social ascension possible or not. The film is set in 1783, 6 years before French Revolution, when the liberal ideas of Voltaire and Montesquieu were on march, it's ironic that the very minds who were praising them couldn't see their own ends coming. The film works also as a slice of aristocratic life in its last breaths.

"HONESTY AND WIT ARE SO RARELY UNITED"

I've always been fascinated by historical movies set in the 18th Century, with all these flamboyant costumes and grandiloquent designs, it seems so unreal that such times ever existed, but I guess their value was to serve as a set-up for the most remarkable metamorphosis the Old World would know, before embracing modernity. Gregoire embodies this new generation, and it's not a hazard that he's befriended by Bellegarde, the doctor, who doesn't just admire the different uses of wit: quips, word-plays, retorts, paradoxes but also honesty and decency. He plays a central role in the film as he both teaches Gregoire and the viewers about the Courts' etiquette, the do's and don'ts, like never laughing to one's own joke, and never making puns. Bellegarde's moralilty affected the education of his own daughter, the beautiful Mathilde (Judith Godreche): a free-spirited woman fond of scientific experimentations, and avoiding by any means, the corruption of Versailles court. She's the total opposite of Mme de Bleyac and the mirror of Ponceludon's corrupting process.

"WE'RE JUDGED BY THE COMPANY WE KEEP" "A MISJUDGEMENT, JUDAS KEPT EXCELLENT COMPANY"

Under the mentor-ship of Bellegarde, Ponceludon reveals himself a most witty mind and an excellent match to the wittiest of all, L'Abbé de Villecourt, a corrupted abbot and protégé of Madame de Bleyac, Bernard Gireaudeau in a scene-stealing performance. "Beware of the abbot" warns Bellegarde "He's a snake. He watches in silence. When he speaks, it's too late." Indeed, an insult can take you at anytime and sometimes in the field of verbal sparring, the best defense is still the attack. "Ridicule" on that level, provides an abundance of verbal confrontations, reaching their pinnacle during a magnificent 'tournament of wit' meant to ridicule Ponceludon. One might lose a battle, but not the war, especially if he still has the last word.

"THE SOUL OF WIT IS TO KNOW ONE'S PLACE"

And this is only one of the layers that contribute to the film's greatness, with an extraordinary respect for the intelligence's viewer, "Ridicule" never takes its wit for granted but uses it to speak much more truthful statements about the way one conducts his own life. We can be our own enemies as sometimes, a beautiful moment in the sun can turn into a stormy disaster, simply with one unfortunate word. Any word said can be hold against its author, and some will learn this lesson the hard way.

"VOLTAIRE WOULD HAVE WEPT"

The film provides other unforgettable moments, deaf people proving that even the language of hands can make witty gestures, a suspenseful duel and a splendid climax. To Historical movie buffs and to French Language lovers, "Ridicule" is a must-see, a modern classic that deserved the Best Film César in 1996, and is so magnificently written that the fact that it didn't win a Cesar for Best Screenplay sadly fits the title.
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4/10
It has its good points
n-mo16 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
There is a lot to like about "Ridicule." Splendid costumes, gorgeous Versaillais architecture and painting, and a pretty historically accurate portrayal of the absurdity and the confusion playing out at the Versailles court on the eve of the Revolution (on the one hand, they will all maintain that they are devout Catholics; on the other hand, they court libertine philosophers and more or less openly engage in grotesquely immoral--often sexually charged--war games of wit). The premise is interesting, the acting is grand and the atmosphere is terrific.

Where the movie loses points is in its philosophical moralizing. The film does not make it a point to distinguish the character of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from that of their courtiers. Although the film does not actually portray them doing anything they would not actually have done (they were, indeed, deeply ingrained into the life of their court), by not holding them out the film does give us the impression that they were every bit as trashy and apathetic as the courtiers (in fact, they were most certainly not) and that they deserved their ultimate lot in the French Revolution (and any historian even slightly to the right of Karl Marx agrees that they most certainly did not).

Near the end of the film the protagonist, the Marquis de Malavoy, countryside aristocrat who has learned the court games simply in an attempt to petition Louis XVI for help with his land and for his feudal tenants, castigates the courtiers for their hypocrisy. He cites their invocation of Voltaire, a man "filled with compassion!" as evidence. But anyone who knows anything about Voltaire knows that he was quite the snob himself.

Moreover, the ending, which implies that Malavoy, the compassionate aristocrat, now lives well in Revolutionary France, gives the false impression that it was his openness to liberalism that had permitted him to stay rather than go into exile. In actuality, it was precisely in places such as Malavoy's holdings, where feudal ties were strongest and aristocrats remained landed rather than absentee, that resistance to the revolution was also the strongest--and most tragic. Anyone ever hear of a place called "Vendée"? The people there stood in defense of their patriarchs, their Church and the House of Bourbon--and hundreds of thousands paid the ultimate price for not wanting to recognize a Parisian regime they regarded as criminal as having the right to unilaterally redo the physiognomy of their socio-political landscape.

And speaking of physiognomy, let me just comment on the... ugly faces. I don't know whether it's the makeup, but Fanny Ardent looks as though her face might kill as humiliatingly as ridicule does. The court of Versailles must have been teaming with fresh flesh, and I'm not at all convinced a priest would break his vow of celibacy for the likes of her. And, "My bedroom is known to lead to the throne room"? Uh... yeah, THAT line really makes up in charm what she lacks in looks. Uh-huh. And Judith Godrèche, who is normally quite lovely, is done up just horribly... her face and hairdo are so tomboyish that it's a wonder she survives at a place like Versailles. And while the makeup on the men may be historically accurate, it is not applied in a very charismatic fashion, as though the filmmakers were trying to give us something to laugh at.

The ambiance is good, but the script is disappointing and nauseating. I think one can do better for a quiet evening alone.
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10/10
Wit was King in pre-revolutionary France.
susan-31725 May 2011
This is one of my favorite films. There are several story lines - the primary is about a young noble named Ponceludon wishing to drain his swamps in the Dombs, and seeking help from the Court of Louis the XV. What makes the film so memorable are the quips our hero makes. What a wonderful script! Although the film does not explain the differences between the peasants and the nobility which eventually led to the French Revolution, it does include scientific interests of the day and references to Pascal's writings, and the "discovery" of sign language for the deaf.

See it for the sumptuous costuming, the script, the gorgeous art design and the beautiful leading ladies.
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7/10
Tedious Liaisons
kayaker3621 December 2010
**Bien sur** the biggest reason to watch this movie is Paris-born blonde Judith Godreche. Not a great actress but oh, that face, and those boobs so generously displayed in period costume. She was twenty-three when the film was shot but looks younger. Mlle. Godreche was to appear opposite superstar Leonardo Di Caprio in "The Man in the Iron Mask" two years after this. Had she been easier to work with and taken a few acting lessons she might have made movies in Hollywood earning ten times what the miserly French would pay. She does not have enough scenes here--one of this ornate and overlong film's several shortcomings.

Apart from the obligatory love triangle sub-plot, the story concerns a country gentleman **cum** engineer who decides he must petition King Louis XVI, France's last absolute monarch, to obtain financial backing for his scheme to drain the swamps in his home region and so rid it of the mosquito infestation and fevers that make life there near impossible. While nearing the Royal Palace at Versailles this young man, played adequately if not electrifyingly by Charles Berling, is the victim of an eighteenth century mugging.

The hero is next seen at the house of a well-connected doctor, who later agrees to take him in and instruct him in the art of witty repartee which will be his **entree** to the royal court. Played by cinema veteran Jean Rochefort, the doctor as a physician is no better than his times and treats the young man's injuries by thoroughly, almost fatally, bleeding him. The hero, however is well ahead of his time having apparently made the connection between mosquitoes and malaria, at least fifty years before anyone else!

The doctor has a beautiful daughter (Mlle. Godreche) but she is betrothed at the film's start to a very wealthy noble not twice but three times her age. The reason why she and her father agree to this union is not credible but it does lead to a brief scene in a notary's office, authentic to the last quill pen, where the three of them hammer out what would today be called a **pre-nup**.

Essential for any period film, the **decors**, costumes, makeup all are faultless.

After an endless succession of parties, formal dinners, royal audiences and a masked ball, it all works out for the best--apparently. We know from history that the rainwater pools of the Dombe region were significantly reduced in extent and life there improved just after the Revolution.

It is worth mentioning that the third side of the triangle is a Pompadour-type character, a political mistress to the King, played well enough given the material by the tall and elegant, forty- something Fany Ardant.
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8/10
Excellent Foreign Period Piece
pc955 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"Ridicule" is a fabulous French movie of the mid-90's that I recently checked out for viewing. It runs a brisk run-time replete with sharp characters and a highly interesting theme of Wit, and how it seemed to dominate the atmosphere and subject of French Aristocratic social occasions. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole cast and direction on all levels of support. The protagonist was mostly admirable less one complete lapse in judgment and plan. (spoiler) The duel was mesmerizing, and the relationships all built on one another. Perhaps best of all was the early third of the movie with the father Belgarde aiding Malevoy in his quest to a greater cause, not out of honor or cause, but for the wit he saw in him. The layers of superficiality are stunning. This movie is as good or better as Amadeus. A great watch that starts out a bit slow of pace.
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Oh France
lindseybeloved28 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I picked up this French film from the library knowing nothing about it. The first scene was shocking, and I didn't know whether I was up for it. I'm not squeamish or grossed out by many things. I mean, I've seen another Frenchie called "Irreversible," but it wasn't THAT kind of shock. Okay I'm going to ruin it. A guy urinates on another guy, and it shows it...pee and all. Anyway, I stuck it out (no pun intended), and the movie turned out to be funny and moving in the end. The acting, writing, and visual style were all great. If you can find it, give it a watch. It's a good example of French humor, which is far different than American humor and far more enlightening.
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8/10
The Right Wing is bankrupting the nation.
lastliberal13 December 2009
Ridicule was deadly in the time of Louis IV. This Oscar-nominated Best Foreign Film (losing to the excellent Kolja) explores the aristocracy before Louis lost his head.

One could scarcely imagine those who were so idle that they prized wit above all else, and had rules for displaying it. Wit, to the French, was different than the English humor.

A baron, Ponceludon de Malavoy (Charles Berling) is trying to get the Court to pay for draining the marshes on his property. The old Marquis de Bellegarde (Jean Rochefort), takes him as a protégée and teaches him that wordplay can be more powerful than swordplay in appealing to the aristocracy.

Patrice Leconte (Monsieur Hire, The Hairdresser's Husband) has another winner here. The story of language and court intrigue is funny and fascinating.
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8/10
Ridicule -- You are ridiculous, if you choose not to see it
jonathanruano15 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
If life in high school was set in the 18th century French court, we would have "Ridicule," a movie about Gregoire Ponceludon (Charles Berling) who realizes that the best way to drain the swamps on his estate is not to ingratiate himself with the courtiers, but to insult them with one witticism after the other. Wit, a friend the Marquis de Bellegarde (Jean Rochefort) tells young Ponceludon, opens all doors and can win King Louis XVI's favor; and once you have the king's favor, he will give you whatever you want. Indeed, one comes away with the impression that the king's generosity towards the witty is so boundless that he seems oblivious to the reality that he is spending money that the state does not have. Only the finance minister knows how bad things are and he grumbles to Ponceludon that perhaps he could convince the king to stop spending so much money on his courtiers for the dignity of France. Well, as far as Louis XVI (Urbain Cancelier) is concerned, dignity can go to hell.

Like all high schools, the French court is artificial, cruel, witty and a haven for endless sex. The courtiers subjected to ridicule are weak, insecure and tend articulate themselves rather badly. They could be popular courtiers who have misspoken, thereby providing an ambitious courtier with the opportunity to ridicule them. The women don't believe in love. They will have sex with any man who happens to be the most popular at any given time. When Abbe de Vilecourt (Bernard Giraudeau) falls into disfavor, Madame de Blayac (Fanny Ardant) turns to Ponceludon. She then finds another lover, when Ponceludon inadvertently ridicules her.

Now all of this may seem very predictable, unless you were home schooled during your high school years, but it is entertaining most of the time in wicked sort of way. We enjoy hearing the witticism; we enjoy even more seeing people insulted, especially when it is the vile de Vilecourt. But this film also has a serious and a profound side as well. On being ridiculed, Ponceludon condemns the world of the courtier as a farce. It is not a witty remark. But Madame de Blayac realizes he is right. She realizes that she has been duped, because all her life was wasted on an endless struggle trying to be popular, pretty and charming. A life without love and indeed without meaning. It was not too late for Ponceludon, because he was still young and had only stayed in court for a few months. But it was too late for Madame de Blayac, because she had nothing else apart from that pointless life. Perhaps that explains her tears, when in her moment of victory Ponceludon leaves the court for good and the dancing resumes.

I could go on about the film. At times it is boring, but on the whole director Patrice LeConte does an excellent job in maintaining our interest. The performances are good too, especially the one given by Fanny Ardant. Finally, the film has a brilliant baroque score which creates the atmosphere of a ruthless and uncompromising court. The sets and costumes are beautiful too, but what is decisive in films like these is excellent direction, a good screenplay and brilliant performances: this film has all three.
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10/10
The best French film you'll ever see!
R. Ignacio Litardo14 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely do we witness an impeccable work of Art. Social issues duly addressed, it also bemuses us, and shows mean and altruistic motives combined in every person, noble or wicked. It is true frivolity doesn't come off very well in this film, but I find the contrast between l'ingénieur and la cour satisfying. I won't dance in our modern "cours" without having second thoughts from now on...

I love Jean Rochefort's roles, this one seems hand picked for him. Intelligence, restraint, frivolity and pragmatism alla Rousseau form this character. I'd love to have a guide in life like him!

Judith Godrèche's Mathilde de Bellegarde is fine. Probably too perfect, too much avant garde for the little education a woman was afforded at that time. But well, this and the fact that both father and daughter are "brilliant but poor" makes me wonder if this superb film does indeed have some elements of a feuilleton, of a pop novel. Like Cinderella, Lagardere and all its Hollywood variations, like, just to name one example, "Mona Lisa Smile". Mathilde said the cutting phrase I most liked of this film when observed that our hero started to like the corridors of power a bit for its own sake, mistaking his wit for his destiny. I wonder why Judith hasn't appeared on more quality films. Had her part been played by a lesser actress it would have brought the film to oblivion.

Madame de Blayac is just perfect. Beautiful, cunning, devoid of feelings. L'Abbé de l'Epée (Serpent) is extremely well thought of. De Bellegarde's words: "when he speaks, it's already too late" proved to be just too accurate. For some reason, the relationships between the two "Marquises" is at times like those middlebrow US films of boxers, from Rocky to "Million dollar baby". But I don't want to show a demeaning side of my favourite film, so I'll keep to the bright side :).

Music is, yes, PERFECT if you like the baroque. So is photography! The foggy duel with "L'Officier Duel", aerial views of "le marais" and some small moments, like the scene of the palace's flowers resembling it to a "The cure" song (an aspect S. Coppola's Marie Antoinette understood very well: the "modernity" of classic European culture). Any fool can film beauty at Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. It takes a Leconte to show them under a new fresh light, "like if we had never seen them before".

As usual, Berling is fine. Some actors are born with "the gift"; it's obvious he's one of the chosen ones. Yes, this film is similar to "Dangerous Liaisons", but I find Ridicule is far superior for having likable characters and a human story to tell besides the "fireworks".

The storyboard is obviously perfect. C. O. DeRiemer in Amazon, "Terrell-4" at IMDb said something funny, in the spirit of the film, probably a good ending for this humble review. (On F. Ardant): "A man would be a fool not to want to bed Ardant, and even more a fool to trust her".

Enjoy!

PS: It's true that, as this reviewer writes, good command of French is in order if you want to follow this film. It would be like drowning in a marais.

No subtitle could do the job, and maybe only in French does detached verbal swordplay appear "refined" :).
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6/10
Pretty to look at and well-made but not something I'd like to see every day
MartinHafer4 May 2007
This movie is pretty to look at and well made, but I have always felt very indifferent from costume dramas--particularly those involving a lot of rich French aristos who spend all their time talking and congratulating themselves on their exceedingly high sense of self-importance. When I watched the old MGM film, MARIE ANTOINETTE, I found it to be dull and when I saw more recent films like DANGEROUS LIASONS, VALMONT and RIDICULE, I also thought they were awfully dull. Now I know many have enjoyed them and I wish them well, but these films all place so much emphasis on costumes, hair and the irrelevant trappings of extreme wealth. By the way, I am a history teacher and often I love historical films, but perhaps it's the "annoying American" in me that isn't particularly interested in noblemen and women--I much prefer films about REAL people--REAL people I can connect with. I am not saying that the vacuous people in these films aren't "real" but that it was sure hard to care about them or get into the films. In fact, I really think the best value in RIDICULE is illustrating just how worthless the aristos were in France and how ripe they were for revolution--sort of like a non-surreal and non-humorous version of a Buñuel film such as THE DISCRETE CHARM OF THE BOURGEIOSE.

If you ask me, I'd much rather watch an old classic about the French Revolution, such as A TALE OF TWO CITIES or THE SCARLET PIMPERNELL--they're just a lot more interesting and I care much more about the characters.
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8/10
Laugh Like A Drain
writers_reign5 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Leconte followed this with Une Chance sur deux as if to emphasise his versatility and mastery of all genres. On the one hand an ultra modern piece involving two over-the-hill iconic 'hard' men taking on the highly organized Drug Barons with all the car chases, technology and explosions that go with that territory and on the other the ultra sophisticated world of Versailles where the biggest crime is to utter a sentence that falls flat. Out of a premise that finds a Nobleman caring about the peasantry enough to journey to the Court and attempt to gain the ear of the King in order to win Royal investment to underwrite an engineering project to drain marshland Leconte has concocted a confection to delight both the eye and the ear in a world where the ultimate goal is neither money or sex but the perfect epigram. There are four principals and all shine and if Fanny Ardant and Jean Rochefort come out marginally ahead of Charles Berling and Judith Godreche well, she IS drop-dead gorgeous and he IS an all-round consummate Actor's Actor. Not for everyone but even here the usual excuse of not speaking French is flimsy given the excellent subtitles on the DVD. A soufflé prepared exclusively with Faberge eggs.
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7/10
Makes it easy to understand why majority of French citizens lead horrific lives
slmiller-128 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
ONLY ONE SPOILER: When I searched the internet for reviews of this movie, I found several reviews by male movie reviewers who seemed to feel outrage, shock and disgust at the opening scene. I thought to myself, how bad could this be? I mean, what DON'T they show in movies these days? Should I allow my teenage children to see the film? What WAS this scene, and were there more like it? No review was specific as to answering my questions, so my husband and I watched it alone. Here is what that one scene is: A rather graphic scene (zoomed in and lasting a couple of seconds) of a nobleman's genitalia as he is urinating on an aged, disabled nobleman who had ridiculed him some 30 years earlier. Perhaps the outrage, shock and disgust felt by these male reviewers was due to the fact that instead of the typical female nudity we see everywhere in movies, for once we saw graphic male nudity. Who would've thought men to be so prudish? Now, before all you men out there attempt to perform your own version of witty repartee' and strike back at these comments, allow me to add that yes, while this one scene was graphic and shocking, that it was not done for the sake of shock, but rather to show what lengths people in positions of power went to in order to "protect" their own positions and sabotage that of others, ranging from ridicule and humiliation to violence and death. While I do not condone gratuitous nudity for the sake of pornography, I do feel this one scene accurately sets the tone of the tale and has meaning in it's ending.

For some time I could not understand how the plight of so many French citizens could be so desperate and full of starvation and death while the wealthy did not suffer the same fate, and why nobody did anything to change this. If the portrayal of those in positions of power and wealth in this movie was depicted accurately, it is easy to understand how a once great country failed it's citizens when power and choice was held by those who were selfish, lazy, and possibly worse - silly. King Louis XVI has been written to be by many accounts, a man not able to rule, passive, indifferent to those around him near and far, and unable to repair the damage done by his predecessors, especially King Louis XIV when also abandonment of reason and over indulgence were the rule of the day.

Along with the beautiful countryside, architecture and decor, costumes (couldn't they give "poor" Mathilde more than two dresses to wear during the entire film?) and great depiction of human nature and our inherent weaknesses, this movie was very entertaining and for me much more enjoyable than "Valmont"/"Dangerous Liaisons" to which it has been compared. While "Valmont"/"Dangerous Liaisions" also contained the above attributes, "Ridicule" contained an important element they did not - well developed characters and plot.
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7/10
Subject is good and thats it
Vishal Agrawal19 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
An engineer just before French revolution is trying to find his way up in the court. He has wits and guts but the game is bigger than his assumption.

The subject of the film is very good but the story line is very trite, banal, old, done a 100 times etc etc. Hope you know what i mean. Engineer falls in love with one girl and a countess fancy him as her next best ticket to court. Movie becomes a yawn because of this 4000000 years old plot and loses its novelty after 20 minutes. Except for a few scenes movie has nothing to offer. Technically even subject is not very original because if you get to see it 'Vanity Fair', 'Shree 420', 'Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman' are based on the same concept but its a period drama and talks directly about cartoons of french courts so its funny. First scene is very powerful. I hope all french people did that on Louis 17th and his maniac wife. Back to film. Film doesn't hold any water. It goes haywire and becomes boring after 20 minutes. I wonder what this hoopla about 2 thumbs up three thumbs? Still!! rent it for the first scene.

There are very few international films in which you are distracted by technical mistakes. This is one of those. Editing is very bad. Childish mistakes like a man looking in two directions. Camera work is artsy and very distracting. For example Camera is moving from a man's point of view while he is riding a horse but the swiftness of the camera is of airplane. Its worse than amateurish. I couldn't identify characters even until the end of the film. Prettly lame. All the actors are also just OK. In my opinion its very passable. Rent it watch the first scene and send it back. Don't bother about the rest because you know everything already.By the way why 90% of the poster is Judith Godrèche? I think thats just another inconsistency. Its like putting Karen Alens pic on the raiders of the lost arc poster instead of Ford. 7/10.
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9/10
Stylish Corruption
T Y25 September 2006
Add my voice to those who like this fim and who find Fanny Ardent wonderful. But I think the transformation of Ponceledon du Malroy from someone I thought was at best awkward looking (or homely) to a refined and yes attractive man throroughly convincing. By the time he's finished I no longer considered him homely. The sub-titles of this movie are quite an achievement, managing at one point to rhyme, make the same point and deliver the punchline on the right beat - no small feat. It takes small hits over historical revisionism (uppity female nymphette-scientists?), and the re-use of a ruse mentioned in the early half of the film as the downfall of the protagonist.

I don't understand a single reviewer who says the film is hysterical. I doubt you'll laugh out loud once. It's not that kind of movie. But it's pleasures are plentiful. And it's aimed squarely at adult viewers.
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7/10
la dolce vita ala francaise in the Court just before the lights went down
george karpouzas23 August 2006
This is a very fine movie clever and witty.If the morality of the French courtiers was the one that the film shows it to be then the Revolution did very well to destroy the Old Regime. The film is a good evocation of the epoch with lots of esprit and world-play but such callousness towards other people's problems deeply offended my moral sensibilities and made the character played superbly by Fanny Ardant, despite her beauty and wit, repugnant to me.

The same applies to the smart alec Abbe and the callous military officer. The central hero is a responsible and progressive fellow whom I liked very much as well his scientifically inclined fiancée.

The movie is about the clash of the mores of the courtiers and those seeking a more rationalistic order of things. I side with the second.

It is a splendid movie which displays the moral climate of the privileged of the privileged, that means according to sources the tiny portion of 4.000 presentees, that is the cream of the nobility which was 2% of the population anyhow.

How could the French people put up with such drones remains a mystery to me, there must be some historical explanation which eludes me, but this is a film, not a historical treatise.

As such it must be judged and it comes out very well.
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5/10
Dubitative about this movie. Some great ideas but...
Neossir7 July 2006
One of the most terrible thing in the movie is, in my opinion, the bad acting of Charles Berling, and the very bad acting of Judith Godrèche. They're romance is not very well exposed, except maybe the scene of the knee underlined by Steve Rhodes in his review.

The rituals in the french court, the manners, the languages' game are interesting. The dialogs are pretty well written. There are some great scenes, like the one of the duel. Some characters are well played, first of all the Jean Rochefort character, very moving. Bernard Giraudeau is also great, and Fanny Ardant as well (but I have a personnel problem with her acting in general).

The systematic construction between the scenes is a bit annoying, as well as the "false" return of Grégoire in the middle, before his "too-much predictable" come-back.

The movie is alright, the directing correct (sometimes great), but it misses something to make it a film I'd like to see again.
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'Vices are without consequence, but ridicule can kill'
gradyharp20 May 2005
RIDICULE deserved all the lavish praise it engendered upon its release in 1996. As a period piece (France in the final throes of King Louis XVI) it is one of the finest - visually, contextually, musically, AND it is wonderfully intelligent! Unlike many period pieces that serve as elegant decoration for meager stories, RIDICULE carries pungent statements about the decline of aristocracy and the whispers of the cause of democracy.

A poor humanitarian travels from the ill swamps of Southern France to the court of Versailles to seek funding from the Royal Court to correct the deplorable living conditions ignored by the King. Upon arrival he finds a vapid society diverting attention from problems that plague the kingdom by inventing word games whose purpose is to find who can is best able to ridicule the fellow shallow players of this verbal chess game. Finding he has the gift to outclass the court with his verbal wit our humanitarian is 'accepted' into nobility and spars with the finest. For a while our humanitarian's focus is diffused by women, duels, and other diversions of the court until he finally regroups his cause and returns to the suffering sector from whence he came...with the ability to correct the conditions at last.

The cast of Director Patrice Laconte's gem is exemplary and includes such fine actors as Charles Berling, Fanny Ardant, Jean Rochefort, Judith Godrèche, Bernard Giraudeau, and the mute role so sensitively performed by Bruno Zanardi (the one constant presence who keeps us reminded of just how absurdly low the court of France has fallen). The costumes by Christian Gasc (especially in the masked ball) are some of the more sumptuous ever created and the musical score by Antoine Duhamel and cinematography by Thierry Arbogast capture the atmosphere of both comedy and underling decay that makes this film so fine.

Truly a film for those who enjoy double entendres and acerbic wit, this film grows better with repeated viewings. In French with English subtitles. Grady Harp
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8/10
Malicious Wordplay, and Watch Your Back
Terrell-43 August 2004
Ridicule is a French film which takes place in 1783, a few years before Louis XVI lost the ability to wear a hat; where "...in this country, vices are without consequence, but ridicule can kill." The film is about the effect of wit and word play on people's lives and careers. Malicious, mannered and highly enjoyable. Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort, Bernard Giraudeau and Fanny Ardant are excellent. A man would be a fool not to want to bed Ardant, and even more a fool to trust her. The love affair between Berling and his deep-diving sweetheart is amusing and endearing.

The film is sumptuously mounted. The dialogue is so clever a knowledge of French might be in order, but the English subtitles do a superb job of conveying the witty, cruel, self-serving word play.
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10/10
Cultured rights-of-passage feel-good period melange
johnludley23 April 2004
A period drama set in the world of the salons, cliques where wit or at least an acid tongue rule.

Le Marquis Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy comes to court as an idealistic 'nobleman-engineer' hoping to secure royal funding to drain the marshes that afflict the local peasants with malaria.

Redolent of Dangerous Liaisons but with a cause. Gregoire arrives thinking that his cause speaks for itself, is politically educated by the totty's father, shines, engages in the sexual intrigue, gets the girl, saves a bit of the world.

Very, very enjoyable.
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8/10
the "virtue of wit" undone only by dignity and love
juancalzetta30 March 2004
A period piece drama, 'Ridicule' unfolds as a man (Le Marquis Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy - Charles Berling) tries to assist the desperate and dying people that struggle in the swamps of southern France. What ensues is an enthralling ascent up the ranks of the French court at Versailles by this clever countryman, once dismissed as a backward rustic, in an attempt to consult the kKng.

The name of the game is wit. Aside from the malicious Abbot, the stuffy imbred aristrocrats can hardly keep up with the Malavoy's punishing tongue. Unfortunately, most of the invigorating wordplay of the script is lost in translation. Still, the film is comprehensible and the story holds, though the French is at times delicious.

The women of the movie are well portrayed: a sinister Madame de Blayac intrigues, a lovely Mathilde de Bellegarde enchants.

An 8, all in all. A good story, impressive production detail, persuasive historical recreation, solid script, honest photography. Serious where "Dangerous Liasons" was slight - the details. Plus, the lead women are meticulously rounded and the film's aftertaste speaks substance not sap-opera.
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8/10
Witty and fun. A sumptuous feast for the senses.
yossarian10017 February 2004
Ridicule is one of those movies that begs not to be taken seriously, which is rather easy to oblige when one is shown a male's penis as part of a comical introduction to the film. However, it's quite easy to note that the use of witty remarks is almost entirely damaging to someone or everyone so there appears to be a serious social comment in the works. Me? I mostly sat back and enjoyed the show. I got a kick out of the humorous lines, enjoyed the beautiful photography and richly detailed costumes, and delighted in the well above average performances.
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