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Film / Beaumarchais

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Beaumarchais (in French Beaumarchais, l'insolent) is a 1996 French historical Biopic based off a play by Sacha Guitry, directed by Edouard Molinaro and starring Fabrice Luchini, Sandrine Kiberlain and Manuel Blanc. It tells the life of Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais, the French playwright, spy and activist.

In 1773, Beaumarchais (Luchini) is preparing the first performance of The Barber of Seville, when Gudin (Blanc), a would-be poet who has just arrived in Paris, asks to meet him. Thanks to a letter of recommendation by Voltaire, Beaumarchais accepts to hire him as his secretary and biographer. So Gudin becomes involved in the many facets of the life of Beaumarchais: playwright, womanizer, judge, political activist, spy, arms dealer...

Beaumarchais provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Gender: The Chevalier d'Éon. The other characters cannot tell if he is a man or a woman.
  • Bedroom Adultery Scene: Beaumarchais comes back home in the morning and he finds Marie-Thérèse, his official girlfriend, in bed with Gudin. Marie-Thérèse tells Beaumarchais that this is not important and he agrees.
  • Biopic: The film tells the life of Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais from his fight with the Duc de Chaulnes (1773) to the first performance of The Marriage of Figaro (1784).
  • The Casanova: Beaumarchais seduces many women over the course of the film (Marion Ménard, another actress who plays in The Barber of Seville, Marie-Thérèse Willermaulaz, one of the young mistresses of the Prince of Conti). Marie-Thérèse Willermaulaz, who loves him, is sometimes desparate by his many infidelities.
  • Concert Climax: The climax of the film is the first performance of The Marriage of Figaro.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: The Duc de Chaulnes is very angry when he hears that Beaumarchais slept with Marion Ménard, his mistress. First he goes to Ménard's dressing room, breaks down the door and attacks Gudin. Then he challenges Beaumarchais to a duel in the middle of a trial that Beaumarchais is presiding over.
  • Dirty Old Man: The Prince of Conti, who has sex with two very young girls.
  • Duel to the Death: The Duc de Chaulnes challenges Beaumarchais to a duel because he slept with Marion Ménard, his mistress. They have a sword fight and Chaulnes would have killed Beaumarchais if the guards had not interrupted the fight.
  • Externally Validated Prophecy:
    • During his trial against La Blache, Beaumarchais tells that France has had enough of the corruption and the injustice of the monarchical system and that the people will make things change. The viewer of the film shoud know that this happens short before The French Revolution.
    • Beaumarchais tells the actors of his play that, in the future, author's rights (in French droits d'auteur, i.e. copyright) will be recognized.
  • The Film of the Play: The film is adapted from a play by Sacha Guitry that had never been performed.
  • A Fool for a Client: Beaumarchais defends himself during the trial against La Blache.
  • Kangaroo Court: La Blache has connections and he has paid Goëzman, the public prosecutor, so he is sure that Beaumarchais will be condemned by the corrupt court. Beaumarchais does not even try to prove his innocence: he just tries to expose the corruption of the system.
  • Last Request: Gudin suggests to a dying Prince of Conti that he asks Beaumarchais to write a sequel to The Barber of Seville. The Prince agrees to do so and Beaumarchais promises to write a sequel.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Some aristocrats keep on calling Beaumarchais Monsieur Caron, which was his name before being ennobled.
  • Mononymous Biopic Title: In the UK and Canada. In the original French title, Beaumarchais's name is followed by l'insolent ("the insolent"). In the US title, it is followed by the Scoundrel.
  • Naked First Impression: Marion Ménard's pubes is naked when she first meets Gudin (and her nipples are showing above her low neckline). Gudin is visibly embarrassed, but Marion does not care.
  • Out with a Bang: The Prince of Conti dies because he had too much sex with his two much younger mistresses. He does not die in the act, but he has a feeling of faintness and dies shortly thereafter.
  • Plausible Deniability: Louis XVI orders Beaumarchais to help the American insurgents, but he does not give him any money to fund the operation, so that he can deny that he ordered it.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: When Beaumarchais is sent as a secret agent in England, he has to choose a fake name. He decides to call himself Norac, which is his birth name (Caron) written backwards.
  • Sex for Services: Marion sleeps with Sartine, the chief of police, to get Beaumarchais out of jail.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Marion Ménard's pubes is naked when she meets Gudin (and her nipples are showing above her low neckline). She does not care.
  • Surprise Witness: During his trial against La Blache, Beaumarchais brings three surprise witnesses to prove that Goëzman, the public prosecutor, is corrupt: Lejay, Gudin and finally Lejay's wife.
  • Sword Fight: The Duc de Chaulnes interrupts a trial that Beaumarchais is presiding over and he challenges him to a duel. They have a sword fight in the courtroom.
  • Token Minority: Césaire is the only black character and he is Beaumarchais's servant and he only says a few words. Justified because this is 18th-century France.