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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on November 10, 2003
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 All substantive thought at court has been replaced by endless games of witticisms, whereby a person's social standing and political access are functions of mastering the art of the putdown .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.
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on July 12, 2004
Patrice Leconte's film on the pageantries and sophistries of King Louis XVI's Court, a place where there are many words flying about yet little substance in governance. The protagonist is Ponceludon de Malavoy (Charles Berling), a low-ranked nobleman who seeks a royal grant to drain the swamps plaguing his region. He is, unfortunately, a new-comer to the King's court and needs to be properly introduced to the King. He receives help from the Marquis de Bellegarde (Jean Rochefor) and his loving daughter (Judith Godrèche.) Malavoy also comes under the machinations of Madame de Blayac (Fanny Ardant) to befriend the King. As he navigates through the King's court, Malavoy is subjected to the invectives of sycophantic nobles who seek to exploit the King for their own petty needs. With little wealth and a low title, Malavoy soon realizes that the only weapon he has is his wit (esprit.) As he come closer to appealing to the King, he maneuvers his wit and invective as a musketeer wields his rapier. The script is excellent and the story is filled with the art of invective and wit. A perfect example of some of the witty encounters in the film is when the King asks Malavoy why he has made jokes of only the aristocracy but not of him? With a reserved smile Malavoy replies, "The King is not a subject your Majesty!"
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on January 20, 2013
Im giving this movie 4 out of 5, because it's a nice movie, but Im not in love with it, nor I watch it over and over again...What I most do like about it though, is how they portrayed the shame of being a target of "ridicule" at that time, being judge by others and how one bear the shame of not fitting in society.
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on July 6, 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 " 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.
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on December 7, 2000
Sometimes I think that Patrice Leconte is not a person but a studio's name. It's hard to comprehend that one man can create a goofy entertainment like Tanned Skiers (Les Bronzes font du Ski, 1979) and the tragic story of obsession (Monsieur Hire,1989) ten years later. The bittersweet poetic fable of The Hairdresser's Husband (Mari de la coiffeuse, 1990, one of my Top 3) was followed by the purely commercial Une chance sur deux (One chance for two, 1998) - and the only excuse for filming that creampuff was a unique chance of seeing the 2 ageing stars, Belmondo and Delon, play together. Universally appreciated Ridicule (1996) is very far from the vague and hysterical black & white The Girl On The Bridge(La fille sur le pont, 1999).
Watching Ridicule is a pleasing experience. The line between good and bad is very visible.
The Louis XVI's court is corrupted, peopled by the monsters of excess and backstabbing. They are paralyzed by self-indulgence, they breath irony to justify their lifestyle - everything is hopeless, everything is laughable, a brilliant orator can be turned into nothing if the muse of ridicule favors the rival. So why try anything when even the most impressive results could be ridiculed - remember the scene at the school for the deaf? And all miasma float to the top where the king enjoys the gems of the genre.
Gregoir, the champion of the dying peasants is not lacking in integrity and resolve, though could not resist the temptations. His future spouse is The Era of Enlightnment ideal came alive. It's fun to see the two innocents accusing each other. The man is guilty of a short stay at the enchantress' boudoir (a not unpleasant means to achieve the noble ends) and an occasional wry smile when his witticisms hit the mark. The girl made a few steps towards selling her impressive assets to the old codger to finance the underwater research. Take away these "sins" and the couple will look too good for this world. And they certainly look unexpectedly simple for today's French cinema.
No effort is required to enjoy this film. You fall for the good and despise the bad. Even the final ridicule does not look like a disaster - Gregoir exits the ballroom with his lovely prize leaving the courtesans to perform their mechanical dance. And then we are informed that - unlike many of his class in Revolution years - the baron failed to become a headless aristocrat's corpse. Instead Comrade Malavoy works for common good, curing the land of it's maladies.
This time Patrice Lecont couldn't be credited with creating something disturbingly complex - but, obviously, that was not his intention. The world of this movie is worth revisiting - I did it more than once. The scenery is beautiful, the actors - very good, the message is very reassuring. The renowned French sophistication benefits the film but the usual condescending smirk is not anywhere in sight.
The director is on the mission here. Just as his film's character, Patrice Leconte is a champion. A champion of French cinema. He is not willing to adopt the American accent as his compatriot Luc Besson did, but the need to make a French films the rest of the world could enjoy is evident to him. There was an outburst of political activism when Monsieur Leconte demanded to forbid any criticizing reviews of the French-made movies before their release. He argued that such reviews result in the viewers' negative reaction to domestic produce. But finally the master decided to contribute to the cause with his art, not angry declarations.
And with The Ridicule he succeeded spectacularly.
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on August 6, 1998
Hmmm, not sure why it's referred to as a book, so I hope this review shows up along with the actual video. 'Ridicule' is a brilliant film, in French, that details the quest of a idealistic nobleman as he confronts the ways of Louis XIV's court. Gregoire Ponceludon de Malavoy wishes to see the king regarding important matters, vital to the survival of his peasants, but soon learns that court is a place where men concern themselves with matters that Ponceludon considers trivial, and where all priority is placed one's wit. There's a bit of romance tossed in as well. Overall, a great film that was nominated for the 1997 best foreign language picture Oscar (lost to 'Kolya'- a delightful little Czech film). Definitely worth renting at the very least, but very enjoyable to watch over again. END
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on January 14, 2004
The DVD is pretty bare bones. You get a nice widescreen transfer (the full-screen VHS was pan and scan, so you do see more image with the widescreen) and surround sound. The English subtitles are not "burned in" to the must activate them with the captions option on your DVD player.
The only "extra" is a commercial ballyhooing Miramax's achievements in recent years.
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on October 13, 2000
I don't speak French very well, so when a friend suggested that I watch a French movie filled with witty turns of phrase, I worried that much would get lost in the translation. Luckily, my fear was unfounded.
The superb acting and more-than-adequate subtitles of "Ridicule" convey not only the importance placed on verbal jousting during this era, but also the fact that larger issues -- such as dying labourers or a man's integrity -- did not receive the attention that they deserved. Like mosquitos which suck the peasants' blood, the aristocrats are shown to serve little purpose other than to consume and infect.
The film sparkles visually and verbally. You will love it.
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on July 8, 2001
Ridicule is an immensely entertaining tale of passion, betrayal, love and deceit. A young nobleman journeys to King Louis XVI's court to plead for help for his peasants. He soon learns that his humanitarian chivalry is not appreciated but his quick wit is coinage of the realm. His life becomes complicated when it appears that he will be forced to chose between two woman: a cunning older noblewoman - who can help his cause, or an innocent young woman with little to offer but love.
Even if you don't normally enjoy subtitled films, I believe that you will find this movie to be clever and charming. The humour is wickedly funny and the performances are outstanding.
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on December 12, 2000
'Ridicule' is a wonderful French film I rented and have enjoyed time and time again, even with some friends who hate films that they have to "read." If you dislike foreign films or films with captions, you're missing out if you haven't seen "Ridicule." Lavish costumes, great sets, and the attention paid to detail regarding the period are all incredible. Enjoy this sexy and intelligent romp through the bedrooms, the social politics, and the court of pre-revolutionary France where verbal up-man-ship could make or break one's social standing. A definite thumbs up.
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