Monday, January 13, 2014

Ciné Club- Ridicule de Patrice Leconte

Un film de Patrice LECONTE, comédie dramatique, 1996, 1h45 avec Charles BERLING, Judith GODRECHE, Jean ROCHEFORT, Fanny ARDANT……

Synopsis: This is a French costume drama from director Patrice Leconte that recalls both Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Restoration (1995). Gregoire Ponceludon de Malavoy (Charles Berling) is a baron of the 18th century French countryside, wealthy in property and high in social position but poor in cash. Local peasants -- dependent upon his largesse for their income -- are in poor health, the result of a festering marsh that, if drained, could solve the villagers' illnesses and create valuable farmland. Ponceludon travels to Versailles to plead his case before King Louis XVI. There, he is informed that he has no chance of success unless he can impress the court with his verbal prowess, for the king and his minions value banter, preferably of the ironic, cruel, and insulting variety, above all else. Under the tutelage of the Marquis de Bellegarde (Jean Rochefort), Ponceludon discovers that his sober, blunt honesty can be mistaken for a skewering wit. Though the baron falls for his mentor's science-minded daughter Mathilde (Judith Godreche), he's forced to woo the politically powerful Madame de Blayac (Fanny Ardant). Ridicule (1996) opened the 1996 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.


Reviewed by Lisa Schwarzbaum on Dec 06, 1996
It's all too easy to compare Ridicule to Dangerous Liaisons. The film, from French director Patrice Leconte (Monsieur Hire, The Hairdresser's Husband) and written by first-time screenwriter Remi Waterhouse, is set in 1783, six years before the French Revolution. As in Liaisons, it features snobs, high-class oui-men, and an unspoiled young woman (Judith Godrèche) who embodies all that is non-phony. And as in Liaisons, the plot hangs on the weight of words — in this case the ability of those who'd find favor with King Louis XVI and his court to parry wittily, viciously ridiculing adversaries while escaping even more wounding retort themselves.
There, though, the comparisons end. Because while the protagonists in Dangerous Liaisons play a cat-and-mouse game of exquisite artifice, the characters in this ambling promenade of a morality tale are, in their own ornate ways, more sincerely engaged in their petty pursuits; the status they seek is, in a way, a matter of life and death. And most sincere of all is Ponceludon de Malavoy (French stage actor Charles Berling), an earnest country engineer. Seeking the funds to drain the unhealthy swampy landscape of his village, he comes to Versailles, learns the ropes under the guidance of a benevolent marquis (longtime Leconte collaborator Jean Rochefort), falls for the glitz, and is adopted by the chattering classes as the New Hot Thing. But while he advances his position, and while the widowed countess of Blayac (Fanny Ardant, in sexy middle age and safely past Sabrina) throws herself at him, Ponceludon also falls in love with the marquis' unspoiled daughter (the fresh Godrèche). Eventually, he begins to question the value of ''seeking fruit from a rotten tree.''
There's not much ironic distancing going on here; take away the period-piece wigs and the rouge (not to mention the makeup for the women), and Ridicule is as classical as any hero's journey, or as modern as the saga of any independent filmmaker trying to make it in the court of Hollywood. Indeed, staged as an unexceptional Masterpiece Theatre-type costume drama, the film (it's France's official entry for this year's best foreign film Oscar) can just as easily be read as a jab at Hollywood — and at all big-media, gossip-column-oriented, eat-or-be-eaten societies. ''We're judged by the company we keep,'' one courtier instructs. Ridicule gently suggests that the culture of sound bites has deep roots.