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This French film describes with irony and causticity the French spirit that has lasted through the ages and still prevails today.


On the occasion of July 14th, we have chosen to present "Ridicule", a French film by Patrice Leconte, released in 1996, which takes place just before the French Revolution.

This satirical, lively and uncompromising film, which has won several Césars, can be read in several ways. It benefits from an excellent cast, whether it be Charles Berling as a baron who bends the rules to achieve his ends, Jean Rochefort as a marquis who loves wit without being able to make it himself, Fanny Ardant as a manipulative countess or Bernard Giraudeau as a pretentious abbot. Patrice Leconte's characters are "Stakhanovists of the mind" who play with words but also with fire to escape the ridicule that will one day overwhelm them.

This is the story of a young provincial aristocrat, penniless and candid, who arrives at the court of Louis XVI in Versailles. He comes up against the bureaucratic heaviness of the French state and wants to ask the king for the means to drain the marshes of the Dombes. He participates in this life where honor and wit are the center of a refined and decadent effervescence, and where the fear of ridicule is terrible. He denounces the absurdity and the ridiculousness of the fight of the courtiers.

We have reviewed this film with an intercultural eye, without stopping at the outrageous aspect or the societal analysis. The story, the period, the setting are only pretexts to evoke the arrogance of power in a country where hierarchy has an important place and determines many behaviors. The portrait painted could be that of today's political life, far from the daily realities, where everyone can lose his status following a clumsy sentence and where the courtiers always play the same role. But beyond a criticism of society and power, it is the French spirit that is described here with irony and causticity.

The author highlights, certainly in a caricatured way but not without humor, the art of discourse and of demonstrating with talent everything and its opposite, the search for wit, the pleasure of oratorical jousts and word games. For Jean Rochefort, "it's a western in which we have replaced the colts by words of wit". But having wit is a double-edged sword that can be fatal. "It's not enough to have wit. One must have enough to refrain from having too much," said André Maurois. "The art is to shine while remaining in one's place", reminds the Countess of Blayac in the film. As for the Marquis de Bellegarde, during his English exile he discovered another form of wit, British humor.

Understanding a country through its humor is a way to grasp some of the subtleties of a culture.

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