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Ridicule ★★★½ 1996 (R)

Fish-out-of-water drama has minor country aristocrat Pondeludon (Berling) enter the depraved world of the 18th-century court at Versailles. There, he hopes, the king will aid him in his quest to drain the diseaseridden swamps at his estate. The naive provincial finds he must master the weapons of choice for success within the court—wit, deadly ridicule, and impeccable lineage. After initial missteps due to lack of finesse, he quickly adapts, and finds some influential allies: the beautiful Madame de Blayac (Ardant) and sympathetic Marquis de Bellegarde (Rochefort). When the Marquis's spirited and attractive daughter, Mathilde (Godreche), shows up, the smitten Pondeludon must stop her loveless marriage of convenience. Perfectly cast, director Leconte's highly lauded period piece has all the emotional and technical elements of an engaging film. In French with subtitles. 102m/C VHS, DVD . 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. Oscars '96: Foreign Film; Cesar '97: Director (Leconte), Film; Broadcast Film Critics '96: Foreign Film.