[Screen It]


(1996) (Charles Berling, Fanny Ardant) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Moderate None None None *Minor
Smoking Tense Family
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A late 18th century engineer travels to the Court of Versailles and gets wrapped up in their aristocratic world as he tries to convince the king to fund a humanitarian project.
Gregoire Ponceludon de Malavoy (CHARLES BERLING) is a lower class engineer in late 18th century France. His people have been dying from diseases originating in the mosquito infected swamps in Domber, and Gregoire has a plan to dredge the swamps to eliminate the problem. He needs money, however, and ventures to the Court of Versailles hoping to persuade the King to fund his project. There he meets the Marquis de Bellegarde (JEAN ROCHEFORT), the Court physician, who takes Gregoire under his arms after learning that the young courtier has a sharp and lively wit. Teaching him the ways and uses of wit and ridicule in the Court, the Marquis soon makes Gregoire a favorite, especially to the recently widowed Countess of Blayac (FANNY ARDANT), herself a powerful conduit to the king. Her latest suitor, and Court priest, Vilecourt (BERNARD GIRAUDEAU), however, is threatened by Gregoire's new found popularity. While the Countess is attracted to Gregoire, he only sees her as a way to the king, and instead is drawn to the Marquis' daughter, Mathilde (JUDITH GODRECHE). She's a liberated young woman who hasn't fallen under the allure of the Court, but instead finds pleasure in her primitive underwater diving experiments. As the Countess learns that Gregoire is more enamored with Mathilde than with her, she sets out to make him the subject of the Court's ridicule.
Unless they're fans of foreign films or period pieces, it's highly unlikely that any children will be drawn to this movie.
For graphic nudity, some sexuality and brief violence.
  • CHARLES BERLING plays a man devoted to helping his people from dying. That does include sleeping with the Countess in hopes that she'll be his conduit to the king.
  • FANNY ARDANT plays the high ranking courtier who revels in making or destroying whomever she favors or disfavors at the moment.
  • JUDITH GODRECHE plays the only character who hasn't fallen under the spell of the Court's aristocracy. She does, however, participate in some highly dangerous scientific experiments.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    This is by far one of the best films of the year. From its lush set pieces to the period costumes to the outstanding performances, this movie stands among most of the cookie cutter productions we've seen this year. Being a foreign film, some audience members may be put off by the use of subtitles, but they shouldn't be. For the most part, the subtitles aren't difficult to follow and it doesn't seem that much was lost in the translation. What's most enjoyable about this production are both the richly developed characters and the actors/actresses who inhabit them. You will remember these characters long after the final fade out, and it's a grand pleasure to enter their world and spend time with them during the under two-hour running time. While we haven't seen all of the foreign films that will be nominated for the Academy Awards this year, it's doubtful that there will be any better than this one. If you like elaborate, witty period pieces, you won't go wrong with this film. We give it a strong 8 out of 10.
    It's doubtful that any kids will want to see this film, but if they do, here are the main issues to watch for. There is some nudity, including a several second close-up of a man's penis, as well as the bare butt and side of a woman's breast. There's one sex scene (with no nudity but a little movement) and another more sensual scene that has no nudity or movement. One man urinates on an older man who earlier had made fun of him and there are several put downs, but most aren't that bad and are said to be witty rather than from being mean spirited. An old-fashioned pistol duel is the worst of the violence, and it's more suspenseful than graphically violent although a man is shot to death. A man hangs himself and the upperclass people make fun of deaf mutes, but beyond that, there isn't much else to object to. We do suggest, as always, that you read the category listings if you or your children intend on seeing this film.

  • The Marquis tells Gregoire to recover from an assault by, among other things, drinking a glass of wine every night.
  • People of the Court are seen drinking some sort of liquor (wine perhaps).
  • Wine is consumed during dinner with the Duke.
  • Gregoire and the Countess have wine with dinner.
  • People drink wine at a costume party.
  • Gregoire is bled by the Marquis, but none of it's seen, other than the Marquis testing the blood by tasting it.
  • A courtier's body is seen hanging by a noose, his eyes bulging from their sockets.
  • A dueling victim is shot dead and is seen with a small, bloody bullet hole in his shirt.
  • The popular sport of the aristocrats is to ridicule others through wit and this may be seen as bad attitude, but it's done more for sport than out of mean spiritedness.
  • Vilecourt urinates on an older man who can't defend himself, after the older man has evidently ridiculed him.
  • Gregoire stops to help a man he finds lying face down on the side of the road. The man, however, gets up and beats Gregoire with a stick and then steals his horse.
  • One of the king's men turns down Gregoire's plan (to save his people from disease) because it's too expensive, and because France's destiny is more important than the peasants' lives.
  • Mathilde's deaf mute brother Paul is referred to by others as "idiot" or "half wit." Later, when a sign language teacher shows how the deaf can communicate, those in the Court make fun of them.
  • Vilecourt removes a sleeping courtier's boot and throws it into the fireplace. He then calls the man's name to see the king, and the courtier, realizing he's one boot short, goes into a panic that he won't be able to see the king.
  • The Countess sends Mathilde's deaf mute brother away after he spooks her horse.
  • During a game of wit a man states, "It's easier to die for a woman, then to find one worth dying for."
  • Vilecourt responds to Gregoire's plan to save his dying people by saying, "Poor people. They're not only dying. They're boring."
  • The Countess goes through with a plan where Gregoire will be tripped during a dance -- the ultimate ridicule of the Court.
  • Gregoire and a Court officer have a pistol duel. The officer wins the flip of a coin and gets to aim and shoot first. He misses and Gregoire has his turn and hits his mark, killing the other man. The scene takes a long time to play out and thus the tension builds during that time.
  • Dueling Pistols: Used during a duel between Gregoire and a Court officer where the officer ends up dead.
  • Mathilde's deaf mute brother Paul is referred to by others as "idiot" or "half wit." Later, when a sign language teacher shows how the deaf can communicate, those in the Court make fun of them.
  • A courtier hangs himself after he fails to see the king.
  • Gregoire and a Court officer have a pistol duel.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • The subtitled word "damned" is seen once in the subtitles.
  • A close-up of a man's penis is seen as he urinates on another man.
  • The Countess is seen standing nude being "powdered." The shot is from some distance, but her bare butt and the side of a breast are seen.
  • Mathilde's elderly husband-to-be is negotiating a pre-nuptial contract where he gets "access to her bed" twice a week.
  • Mathilde's ample bosom and cleavage are regularly seen in her revealing period dress.
  • Gregoire ridicules another courtier by stating about the man, "Every harem has its eunuch."
  • There is a very sensual scene between Gregoire and Mathilde where he's brushing flower pollen from her dress. He then lifts up her dress and slowly caresses her knee and inner thigh. While there is no nudity or sexual movement, the scene is very sensual as she seems very pleasured by his actions.
  • The Countess tells Gregoire that her bed has been known to lead to the king.
  • During a game of wit, the following is heard: A man talks about going to a brothel where "the good company there isn't that bad, and the bad company is excellent." Another man asks "Why marry only virgins for merely what any man can steal." Another states that "a woman who sleeps with her husband is in labor." When asked how many prostitutes a man's been with, he replies, "How many constitutes several?"
  • During dinner the Countess runs her bare foot under the table to Gregoire's crotch. She then caresses him there with her foot to distract him during a game of wit.
  • Gregoire and the Countess passionately kiss. He then lays her down on the table and gets between her legs and then only she's seen on camera. Her body then moves from his movement (suggesting that they're having sex), but there's no nudity.
  • The Countess kisses Gregoire on the chest and then moves downward along his open robe. It's not seen how far she goes, but the pleasured look on his face suggests what she's doing.
  • None.
  • None.
  • French aristocracy during the late 18th century.
  • Making fun of (ridiculing) others.
  • Marrying someone for money and not love.
  • Class differences between the haves and the have nots.
  • Gregoire stops to help a man he finds lying face down on the side of the road. The man, however, gets up and beats Gregoire with a stick and then steals his horse.
  • The Marquis, acting as the Court doctor, slaps Gregoire for "health" reasons.
  • In a brief science experiment, the Marquis shocks a frog.
  • Gregoire slaps Mathilde for recklessly trying to break an underwater diving record.
  • A courtier hangs himself after he fails to see the king.
  • Gregoire shoots a Court officer dead during a pistol duel.

  • Reviewed December 4, 1996

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