To get royal backing on a needed drainage project, a poor French lord must learn to play the delicate games of wit at court at Versailles.


Patrice Leconte


Rémi Waterhouse, Michel Fessler (collaborating writer) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 20 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Berling ... Ponceludon
Jean Rochefort ... Bellegarde
Fanny Ardant ... Mme de Blayac
Judith Godrèche ... Mathilde (as Judith Godreche)
Bernard Giraudeau ... Vilecourt
Bernard Dhéran Bernard Dhéran ... Montalieri
Carlo Brandt ... Milletail
Jacques Mathou ... Abbé de l'Epée
Urbain Cancelier ... Louis XVI
Albert Delpy ... Baron de Guéret
Bruno Zanardi Bruno Zanardi ... Paul
Marie Pillet Marie Pillet ... Charlotte
Jacques Roman Jacques Roman ... Chevernoy
Philippe Magnan ... Baron de Malenval
Maurice Chevit Maurice Chevit ... le Notaire


In the periwigged and opulent France of Louis XVI, an unwitting nobleman soon discovers that survival at court demands both a razor wit and an acid tongue. Written by Dawn M. Barclift

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Il n'epargne personne. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for graphic nudity, some sexuality and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Opening film at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. See more »


Around 44 min, when Grégoire is talking with Madame de Blayac, her left hand is touching the table, but in the next shot it's just hanging on the chair's the armrest. See more »


Monsieur Bellegarde: Don't laugh with your mouth open. It's too rustic.
See more »


Referenced in Micmacs (2009) See more »

User Reviews

Tedious Liaisons
21 December 2010 | by kayaker36See all my reviews

**Bien sur** the biggest reason to watch this movie is Paris-born blonde Judith Godreche. Not a great actress but oh, that face, and those boobs so generously displayed in period costume. She was twenty-three when the film was shot but looks younger. Mlle. Godreche was to appear opposite superstar Leonardo Di Caprio in "The Man in the Iron Mask" two years after this. Had she been easier to work with and taken a few acting lessons she might have made movies in Hollywood earning ten times what the miserly French would pay. She does not have enough scenes here--one of this ornate and overlong film's several shortcomings.

Apart from the obligatory love triangle sub-plot, the story concerns a country gentleman **cum** engineer who decides he must petition King Louis XVI, France's last absolute monarch, to obtain financial backing for his scheme to drain the swamps in his home region and so rid it of the mosquito infestation and fevers that make life there near impossible. While nearing the Royal Palace at Versailles this young man, played adequately if not electrifyingly by Charles Berling, is the victim of an eighteenth century mugging.

The hero is next seen at the house of a well-connected doctor, who later agrees to take him in and instruct him in the art of witty repartee which will be his **entree** to the royal court. Played by cinema veteran Jean Rochefort, the doctor as a physician is no better than his times and treats the young man's injuries by thoroughly, almost fatally, bleeding him. The hero, however is well ahead of his time having apparently made the connection between mosquitoes and malaria, at least fifty years before anyone else!

The doctor has a beautiful daughter (Mlle. Godreche) but she is betrothed at the film's start to a very wealthy noble not twice but three times her age. The reason why she and her father agree to this union is not credible but it does lead to a brief scene in a notary's office, authentic to the last quill pen, where the three of them hammer out what would today be called a **pre-nup**.

Essential for any period film, the **decors**, costumes, makeup all are faultless.

After an endless succession of parties, formal dinners, royal audiences and a masked ball, it all works out for the best--apparently. We know from history that the rainwater pools of the Dombe region were significantly reduced in extent and life there improved just after the Revolution.

It is worth mentioning that the third side of the triangle is a Pompadour-type character, a political mistress to the King, played well enough given the material by the tall and elegant, forty- something Fany Ardant.

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Release Date:

22 November 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

De latterlige See more »


Box Office


FRF50,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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