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RIDICULE Movie Review

awards film foreign leconte

In 1783, a young French engineer (Charles Berling) is determined to drain the dangerous, disease-infested swamps he lives near, and which are causing illness and death among the area's children. He finds, however, that to have his case even heard at the Versailles court of Louis XVI requires the manipulative skills of a politician, the clarity of thought of a philosopher and the wit and humor of a stand-up comic, yet the urgency and goodness of his cause is barely a part of the formula. Patrice Leconte's Ridicule is a remarkably entertaining and intelligent piece of storytelling about the human costs of a society based on arrogance, ego, and social stratification. The esteem that “wit” is held in in this society is eclipsed only by the price paid by those who don't have it. The prized bits of verbal repartee which can scoot one up the ladder of aristocratic acceptance are depicted with the graphic coldness of sex without emotion (the difference being that this aristocratically mandated “cleverness” without conscience is truly pornographic). A costume epic with a brain is rare enough, but Leconte (Monsieur Hire, The Hairdresser's Husband) has gone one better. His indictment of wit without soul is itself a marvelously witty creation; Ridicule demonstrates what perspective coupled with mental dexterity can achieve when used in the service of humanity, rather than at its expense. César awards for Best French Film, Best Director, Best Costumes and Production Design. With Jean Rochefort, Fanny Ardant, and Judith Godrèche (The Disenchanted).

NEXT STOPMonsieur Hire, La Nuit de Varennes, La Marseillaise

1996 (R) 102m/C FR Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort, Fanny Ardant, Bernard Giraudeau, Judith Godreche, Bernard Dheran, Carlo Brandt, Jacques Mathou; D: Patrice Leconte; W: Remi Waterhouse, Michel Fessler, Eric Vicaut; C: Thierry Arbogast; M: Antoine Duhamel. Academy Awards ‘96: Best Foreign Film; Cesar Awards ‘97: Best Director (Leconte), Best Film; Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards ‘96: Best Foreign Film; Nominations: Academy Awards ‘96: Best Foreign Film; Cesar Awards ‘97: Best Actor (Berling); Golden Globe Awards ‘97: Best Foreign Film. VHS, LV, Closed Caption TOU

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