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... more » 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!« less
H. M Pyles | Chicago, IL United States | 11/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's the waning days of the old regime in France. A conscientious but impoverished nobleman from the south travels to Versailles to petition the royal government for funds to drain his swamps so that his tenants can be spared periodic outbreaks of disease. Instead of finding the sympathetic ears he expected, he finds a government nearing bankruptcy, a well-intentioned but befuddled king who is surrounded by a bureaucracy trying to temper the king's naive generosity and stave off the final collapse, and an aristocracy that has descended into a depraved comedy of manners. All substantive thought at court has been replaced by endless games of witticisms, whereby a person's social standing and political access are functions of mastering the art of the putdown . . . preferrably in as ascerbic a manner as possible.To everyone's surprise -- including his own -- our hero turns out to be quite good at the art of malicious wit. First trying to use his new-found talent to speed up his campaign to drain his swamps, he soon succumbs to the appeal of the game for the game's sake. A series of events eventually snaps him back to reality, and therein lies the plot of the piece.This is a supremely engaging costume piece. The cast is superb, the settings and costumes dead-on accurate, the dialog entertaining and sophisticated. In the end, it's really a gorgeously-filmed morality play about the triumph of conscience over wealth, power, and hollow social graces. The only real fault with the movie from a historical perspective is that it portrays Louis XVI as the affable nitwit of popular legend instead of the serious monarch overwhelmed by ultimately uncontrollable events that he really was.This movie is so good at drawing you in that you soon cease to notice you're reading subtitles (at least if you don't speak fluent French). Although the plot hinges on the most delicate subtleties of 18th-century court French, the story telegraphs through with searing clarity. And it's a story for all times, all places, and all tongues."
At the court of Louis XVI before the guillotine
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 09/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 suffused throughout.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 eyes.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 Louis XVI.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 showers.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 without dishonor."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 head."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."
Literate and wicked
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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 film is sumptuously mounted and the DVD transfer does it justice. 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."
'Vices are without consequence, but ridicule can kill'
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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, May 05
A TRUE ORIGINAL--A FILM ABOUT LANGUAGE , STYLE AND WIT
Ronald Chase Sf Film | San Francisco, CA USA | 02/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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!"