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Posted to Movies at 09:26 AM on Oct 3, 2005

1996. Polygram Audiovisuel. Directed by Patrice Leconte. Starring Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort, Fanny Ardant and Judith Godrèche

First, some background:

I used to be a video store slave. I worked in a national video/record chain for quite a long time. In my job, I saw people rent many, many interesting things. Ridicule was always a very prolific renter. I checked it out at least once a week. We only had one copy. It was a title I had never heard of and the frequency with which people rented it was surprising to me.

A year or so into my tenure at the record chain, DVDs began to make their way into the store. Ridicule was not among the first group of movies available. People started to ask for it. The single tape continued to rent amazingly well. When I quit my job, the DVD had still not come out.

I was curious. When we joined Netflix, I looked for it. At least every month, I plugged "ridicule" into the search box and came up empty. I found this strangely intriguing and made it my personal mission to see it, no matter what. I looked it up on IMDB. No DVD release date forthcoming, but plenty of people itching to get their hands on it. When it came out earlier this year, I added it to the top of the queue immediately.



It's cute. Not great. And I have to say, when the credits started to roll, I wondered if that was really it. I was expecting something brilliant and clever and biting. It was very...French.

An engineer (Charles Berling) in 18th century France goes to Versailles to get some money to improve the drainage system in his hometown. He meets members of the aristocracy and is sucked into their petty political games. He has a fling with a sexy countess (Fanny Ardant, who is a dead ringer for Mimi Rogers) and is forced to face his feelings for a friend's young daughter (Judith Godreche, perhaps the least convincing amateur scientist ever).

I liked some things about this movie: I liked the way the story isn't spoonfed to the viewer. I liked Fanny Ardant. I liked the set and costume design. I actually dig French historical pieces quite a lot, usually. At worst, movies of that vein are somewhat smirky and pretentious, full of winky-winky conceit. This particular movie has some of that. It's almost too clever for its own good. It's so busy being clever that the characters are two-dimensional. Godreche's performance is painfully wooden.

I guess I was looking for some kind of twist. Some kind of big reveal at the end. The whole situation with the countess seemed to be a buildup to something big and the subtle ending made some of the plot unnecessary and the whole of the movie unsatisfying.


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