Ridicule (film)

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Theatrical poster
Directed byPatrice Leconte
Screenplay byRémi Waterhouse
Michel Fessler
Eric Vicaut
Produced byFrédéric Brillion
Philippe Carcassonne
Gilles Legrand
Ranvijay Patwardhan
StarringCharles Berling
Jean Rochefort
Fanny Ardant
Judith Godrèche
CinematographyThierry Arbogast
Music byAntoine Duhamel
Distributed byPolyGram Film Distribution[1]
Release date
  • 9 May 1996 (1996-05-09)
Running time
102 minutes
Budget$7.7 million [2]
Box office$20 million

Ridicule (French pronunciation: [ʁidikyl]) is a 1996 French period drama film directed by Patrice Leconte and starring Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort, Fanny Ardant and Judith Godrèche. Set in the 18th century at the decadent court of Versailles, where social status can rise and fall based on one's ability to mete out witty insults and avoid ridicule oneself, the film's plot examines the social injustices of late 18th-century France, in showing the corruption and callousness of the aristocrats. Ridicule was selected as France's submission and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 69th Academy Awards.


In 18th-century France, Baron Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy, a minor aristocrat and engineer, devises a scheme to drain the marshy region of the Dombes and improve the lot of the peasants living there. He sets off for Versailles in order to seek the support of King Louis XVI. Along the way, he is robbed and beaten but is taken in by the Marquis de Bellegarde, a physician, who teaches him about wit and the court's ways. Ponceludon realizes that the court is corrupt and hollow but finds solace in Mathilde de Bellegarde, the doctor's daughter, who agrees to marry a rich old man to support her science experiments and pay off her father's debts.

As Ponceludon helps Mathilde with her experiments, he discovers that the court is full of deceit and manipulation. Madame de Blayac, the beautiful and wealthy recent widow of Monsieur de Blayac, who was supposed to be Ponceludon's sponsor at court, cheats at a game of wits with the help of her lover, L'abbé de Vilecourt. Blayac repays his generosity by arranging for the certification of his lineage, allowing his suit to proceed. However, Ponceludon sees through their schemes and realizes that he cannot trust anyone at court.

Meanwhile, a deaf-mute named Paul wears Mathilde's diving suit and frightens Madame de Blayac, who plots against Ponceludon with Vilecourt. At a dinner party, Ponceludon is trapped, and a contest of wit ensues to settle who must leave in disgrace. Ponceludon loses, but he is reminded of why he set out to seek the King's help in the first place when a child from the village dies from drinking contaminated water.

Ponceludon sleeps with Madame de Blayac in exchange for her assistance in arranging a meeting with the King, but she maliciously has Bellegarde attend her when Ponceludon is still with her, ensuring that Mathilde learns of their relationship. At a presentation of the Abbé de l'Épée's work with deaf people, the nobles ridicule the deaf, but some nobles change their minds when the deaf demonstrate their own form of wit: sign language puns. Ponceludon supports them, and Mathilde is touched. He joins the King's entourage and secures a private meeting with the King to discuss his project, but he is forced into a duel with a cannoneer who insults him.

Ponceludon kills the cannoneer and learns that the King cannot meet with someone who has killed one of his officers, although he is assured that it was right to uphold his honor. Madame de Blayac plots her revenge by inviting Ponceludon to a costume ball "only for wits," where he is tripped and ridiculed. However, he tears off his mask and condemns their decadence, vowing to drain the swamp by himself, and leaves the court with Mathilde.



Critical response[edit]

Ridicule has an approval rating of 80% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 20 reviews, and an average rating of 7.3/10.[3] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[4]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ridicule (1996)". UniFrance. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  2. ^ JP. "Ridicule (1996)- JPBox-Office". www.jpbox-office.com.
  3. ^ "Ridicule - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.
  4. ^ "Ridicule". Metacritic.
  5. ^ "The 69th Academy Awards (1997) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  6. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Ridicule". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-19.

External links[edit]