DIRECTOR:                     Patrice Leconte
COUNTRY:                     France 1996
CINEMATOGRAPHY:   Thierry Arbogast
MUSIC:                           Antoine Duhamel
CAST:                             Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort, Fanny Ardant, Judith Godreche, Bernard Giraudeau, Bernard Dheran
SUPER FEATURES:       If words could kill, this film would be a killer.

It's a terrible shame that this film can never be appreciated by larger audiences. This "talkie" extraordinaire, is a magnificent example of how words can kill, in exchanges of "wit", in a film that shows a historical tale about a time, when impressions in court were centered on the vanity and depth of one's words, rather than content. Indeed, what cuts through, and eventually eats into the story is the content, and also shows why the french revolution came about in a slight lesser reason, but no less valid. The court, and its people were insipid, vague, vain, and not there for "government" but for their own agendas and influence. The court was not there for the people or governing anyone.

It's still the same today, isn't it? That ought to put your mind at rest, and make you want to see this film. It is excellent.

"Wit" was a style of conversation that was pretty much around the time of Shakespeare and Moliere, and mainly involved the use of clever words, used to gain one's advantage. Shakespeare made fun of it, by using the "gentleman's game" and also having the girls fluent in this area, and use it to gain their own wants. Later the Restoration theatre, would make this a world of affectations, and later still, France ( and others I'm sure ) would engage itself in these things, as a way to avoid dealing with anything that government is supposed to do. But royals and royalty are not government, and their function is not service ...

It is the story of a gentleman, who finds himself in the court, trying to get funding for a project in Versailles, which should help take care that area and its need for some form of irrigation and funneling systems, so that the water that it gets from the rivers does not sit still, which has now been polluted and diseased, and is killing people left and right. But trying to get to the court, and getting nobles to pay attention to Gregoire is something that he is prepared to do, although it forces him to do some unsavory things. But the girl that falls in love with him, can
find the forgiveness in her eyes, when she sees that this man means well, and intends to see through his foremost convictions, and that unlike most of the courtiers', his are important.

This is the basis of the story. The content and wit with which it is carried out is another altogether, and makes this film stand out. The lines, the deliveries, are "delicious" and totally phenomenal. It's just sad that not enough people will get to see this, because the exchanges are so dynamic and enjoyable that this film stands out, even with a throwaway ending of sorts ... typical of comedies that depend on their stuff to get through.

Of excellent appeal here, and shown to its fullest, is how the church really conducted its business in France, something that Cardinal Richelieu himself was most famous for, but never really displayed in many films. The "wit" is supposed to show that the person has some intelligence and knowledge behind his/her words. But affectations had grown and most people were using the words to gain movement in their own areas of interest, and the depth of their words degenerates into a fancy word game for the rich. As long as they do not take themselves seriously they will do very well ... warning, the best part of the moment is the cardinal falling on his face.

With some magnificently directed acting, and well designed exchanges of words, this is a very entertaining film, that deserves much more than it has received. It got a slew of Cesar's in France, and well it should, since the wording in this film is bombastic, to say the least. Well directed, and thought out, in the courts the camera becomes another voyeur. Away from it, it is personal and takes on, and stays, with Gregoire, the real hero in this story.

Worth seeing. Superb dialogue direction. Outstanding acting work.





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