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Oral Presentations Semester Schedule Syllabus Movies Directors Actors Vocabulary Discussion Questions History of French Cinema Other Resources Online Grades Cinema 2 Course


1780, nine years before the beginning of the French Revolution, Louis XVI is King of France, Marie Antoinette (of Austria) is Queen. Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy, an unimportant nobleman from Southern France, arrives at the Court of Versailles to ask for money for an ecological project. He learns that in order to succeed at court it is essential to exhibit wit ('esprit' in French) and to avoid ridicule. Brilliant satire denouncing the conceit and complacency of courtisans (of all 'courts' and all ages). "This film illustrates the power of language both to build and to tear down."
© 1996 James Berardinelli

Background Information

Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Versailles, the French Revolution, the guillotine.
The influence of Voltaire, Rousseau and the Encyclopedia.


Patrice Leconte

Main Actors

Fanny Ardant, Charles Berling




103 min


1997 Cesar (French equivalent of an Oscar) for Best Film
1997 Cesar for Best Director
Nominated for an Oscar


bulletWhat are Gregoire de Ponceludon's traits of character?
bulletWhat are Mathilde's traits of character?
bulletWhat are la comtesse de Blayac's traits of character?
bulletDescribe the behavior of the King, the Queen and the courtisans.t
bulletDescribe the behavior of the priest de Vilecourt.
bulletContrast Madame de Blayac and Mathilde.
bulletWhat other oppositions did you notice?
bulletDescribe the different 'affairs of love' and 'arrangements' that you observed.
bulletVoltaire is mentioned in the movie. Who was he?
bulletRousseau is mentioned in the movie. Who was he?
bulletWhat 18th century ideas and inventions are shown in the movie?
bulletThe French Revolution is mentioned at the end of the movie. What do you know about it?

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