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Film / Delusions of Grandeur

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Ruy Blas hasn't been funnier since that movie.

"What will become of me? I'm a statesman, I can't do anything!"
Don Salluste

Delusions of Grandeur (La Folie des grandeurs) is a 1971 French comedy film inspired by the Victor Hugo stage play Ruy Blas.

Don Salluste (Louis de Funès) is a wealthy and powerful Spanish noble who is also the Minister of Police and Finances: a greedy, stingy, hypocrite and overall odious Evil Tax Collector, he preys on the poor and embezzle money for himself. When he is disgraced by the queen for allegedly fathering a child with on of her servants, he plots his revenge by using his handsome nephew César and then his own valet Blaze (Yves Montand) to trick the Spanish King Charles II into thinking that his wife is cheating with him. However, luck isn't on Salluste's side...


Delusions of Grandeur provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Don Salluste is despised by everybody in the kingdom. The populace loathe him for taxing them so heavily, and heartily rejoice when he's disgraced, burning his effigy in the streets. The other Grandees of Spain are hardly fond of him either, mocking him openly and only caring about his disgrace in that it helps their regicide plans. The Queen is his personal enemy and jumps on the first opportunity to frame him, and the King doesn't look too saddened either from getting rid of a way-too-unpopular minister. Even Salluste's own nephew César considers him a crook and wants nothing to do with his plans. Only Blaze tolerates him at best, and even he has a few Screw This, I'm Outta Here! moments.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Doña Juana, who thinks Don César (Blaze) is in love with her due to some Love Letter Lunacy. In the end, Blaze is given the choice between marrying Doña Juana, or slavery at the Barbaresques. He chooses the Barbaresques.
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  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When Salluste asks Blaze to "flatter" him, he says his boss is "handsome", which prompt him to stand on a table and look himself on a mirror.
    Salluste: Do you really think what you are saying?
    Blaze: Well... I flatter.
  • At Arm's Length: Blaze holds the much smaller Don Salluste at bay this way while the latter tries to slap him as he's firing his valet.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: The Infanta of Spain doesn't think much of her potential "fiancé", Don Salluste, and expresses it by blowing a noisy raspberry at him — twice — when they cross paths in the palace.
    Salluste: [under his breath] Ugly brat... and ill-mannered, too!
  • Brainless Beauty: What Salluste thinks of the Queen. He counts on this for his valet to seduce her so she ends up compromised in the eyes of the King.
    Salluste: She's gorgeous, but she's dumb.
  • Ceiling Banger: Blaze the valet is keeping his master Don Salluste awake by dancing the flamenco and singing in the small room right atop the luxurious bedroom in his enthusiastic love for the queen. Since it's a castle, the ceiling is very high and Salluste has first to build up an improbable pile of furniture and chairs to reach it. Then he bangs the ceiling with the handle of a halberd, to no avail... until the tip go through all the way, right between Blaze's feet. The sassy valet then pulls on it, making Salluste lose his footing and the pile of furniture collapse underneath him just as he clings to the halberd. Then, he shouts at Blaze to let go, and the latter complies... letting Don Salluste falls from a good height, the blade of the halberd landing pointy end first and sending a comical vibration throughout the irate nobleman.
  • Confusion Fu: Blaze finds himself at one point facing a nobleman who seems to be a much better fencer than him. His solution? Taunt his opponent with erratic sword moves, before literally kicking his butt.
  • Corrupt Politician: Just about every one of the Grandees of Spain except Salluste was in on the plot to murder the royal couple. Those who weren't caught instead protest at the idea of the rich paying taxes.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: King Charles II doesn't take well to the idea that the Queen could have a lover. As he was fencing at the time he learns of it, he first takes it out on the poor weaponmaster, who can barely keep up. Then, once guided by Salluste to the alleged cheaters, he pulls out his sword and seems pretty ready to skewer them.
  • Disguised in Drag: When he fails to convince his nephew to helps him into his scheme, Salluste dresses as a Spanish Grande Dame to approach his ex-valet Blaze. He really needs the disguise, because he's one of the most hated people in Spain — the mob is burning his effigy right next door on a public place.
  • Double Take: An epic one when Salluste guides the King of Spain to the bedroom where they expect to surprise the Queen with her lover... only to find her old gouvernante, Doña Juana, in the arms of Blaze the valet. Salluste double-takes, closes the door hastily and starts speaking gibberish out of shock.
  • Downer Ending: While not quite as bad as the original play (where Ruy Blas willingly takes poison after killing Don Salluste, the queen having forgiven his impersonation), the ending still has Blaze not only arrested, stripped of his titles, sent to a Saharan prison... and Doña Juana follows him there.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Salluste's primary enforcer is a one-eyed man wearing an eyepatch. Despite this, he proves to be a crack shot and manages to capture César, who was easily beating up Salluste's other henchmen.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: It's extremely unlikely that Don Salluste, who's old and solely interested in money, would have fathered a child with one of the queen's handmaidens. In fact, he reacts with shock to the mere concept and heartily denies it.note  However, considering he's utterly crooked and has been stealing tax money that belonged to the kingdom for years now, it's obvious the queen has seized this pretext to finally put him into disgrace, rather than bother proving his actual crimes.
    Salluste: Liar! She's a liar! She's lying in German! This child is a false witness!
  • Get Out!: As Salluste is still hanging around after the botched assassination attempt (which happened after his official disgrace), a very large official points him away and tells him "To the Puerta del Sol!"
  • Height Angst:
    • The diminutive Don Salluste forces his valet Blaze to kneel next to him while serving breakfast.
    • The other Grandees of Spain all tower above Don Salluste — the actors were deliberately chosen by the director to be as tall as possible, to make De Funès look even smaller in comparison.
  • Hot Potato: When Blaze barges in the throne room during Don Salluste's Insignia Rip-Off Ritual and yells that the cushion contains a bomb, Salluste throws it to the king by reflex, who throws it away back to Salluste, then into the arms of the Grandees of Spain who keep throwing the smoking cushion to each other, until it falls at the feet of the Queen, who screams and faints.
  • Hurt Foot Hop: After he kicks the cushion filled with a bomb through a window for Relocating the Explosion, Blaze hops around a bit while holding his foot, as the thing was damn hard and heavy.
  • Iconic Item: In-universe, Don Salluste seems to be well-known for wearing a pair of green gloves. To the point that the baby he has allegedly fathered is wearing a pair of identical small gloves as "family resemblance".
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: After falling in disgrace, Don Salluste has to go through a humiliating ceremony before the King and Queen, where his titles of nobility are stripped from him. This includes the pendant of the "Order of the Golden Fleece", by way of first (painfully) pulling his collar atop his face. Before that, the king orders him to retire in a monastery, where he'll take vows of chastity... and poverty.
    Salluste: No, not poverty! Sire, please!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: When he learns that there is an conspiracy against his valet Blaze who is posing as his nephew coming from America, Salluste wants to save him... so he can be caught in a Bedroom Adultery Scene scheme so his master can regain his power and wealth.
    Salluste: If someone kill him tomorrow... I can't make him be caught by the king in the Queen's bed. And the king cucked by my valet, THAT is my revenge!
  • Money Fetish: Don Salluste is so ridiculously greedy that he is nearly a parody of The Scrooge himself. He is obsessed by riches, and can never have enough, embezzling as much of the taxes as he can. He wakes up in the morning to the sound of gold coins cascading in a bowl, courtesy of his valet. And if only one coin happens to be missing from the bowl, Salluste can guess it immediately by sound.note 
    Blaze: [while making rain coins in a bowl] It's time... It's time... It's time to wake up...
    [Salluste is still asleep but puts a happy face]
    Blaze: My lord... It's 8 o'clock...
    [Salluste does a "rewind" gesture and Blaze, annoyed, obliges]
    Salluste: [does a grabbing gesture, then suddenly wakes] There is one missing!
    Blaze: Are you sure?
    Salluste: Absolutely sure!
    Blaze: Well, damn...
  • Money to Throw Away: Don Salluste has just taxed a village dry, mostly in the form of coins and precious metal items. His manservant sabotages the carriage and tells the villagers to follow them, so that when Salluste helps himself to "his" share of the taxes and puts them in the back, they fall into the road.
  • Not Me This Time: After a bomb goes off during Salluste's Insignia Rip-Off Ritual, the guards find him clinging to the top of a large painting repository while claiming his innocence.
    Salluste: No, Sire! For once it wasn't me! I was here... I was praying.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Don Salluste has views on the Infanta of Spain, whom Blaze calls his "fiancée". Of course, this is solely for the influence it would grant him, and a spot in the throne succession. He doesn't care about the child, whom he considers an ugly, ill-mannered brat. His disgrace, of course, put a serious hamper on these plans.
  • Relocating the Explosion: A bomb disguised as a cushion starts smoking, intended to kill the King and Queen of Spain. A game of Hot Potato begins before Blaze finally kicks it out the window... into the arms of the very surprised man who'd made the bomb in the first place.
  • Sadistic Choice: At the very end, Blaze is given the choice by the King to either marry Doña Juana, or be sold into slavery at the Barbaresques. He chooses the Barbaresques.
  • The Scrooge: Salluste's defining character trait. When he orders Blaze to tell a big lie, Blaze only has to claim that he found 600,000 coins in Salluste's spare clothes and hid them under his bed for Salluste to leap onto the bed and start tearing it apart.
  • Shake Someone, Objects Fall: After his disgrace, Don Salluste is trying to stop the servants removing all his ill-gotten riches from his chambers by intercepting the gold coins and other precious dishware and stuffing them in his pants. As he tries to gets away with his pants overstuffed, his ex-valet Blaze catches him and starts shaking vigorously the greedy old man, making the many precious items fall off.
  • Shout-Out: The Infanta of Spain looks like she stepped straight out of the painting Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.
  • Sleazy Politician: Don Salluste, Marquess of Montalegre, Baron Del Pisco, Minister of Finances and Police under Charles II of Spain and tax collector. Disgraced by the queen for allegedly fathering an illegitimate child, he plots his revenge by sending his handsome nephew and then his own valet in order to regain his wealth and power.
  • The Speechless: Salluste has a mute manservant (Paul Préboist), who communicate mostly by pantomine for further comic relief.
  • Spit Shine: Blaze (as César) and King Charles II have a bonding moment spitting to shine their leather boots (the king wanted to know why César's boots were always shinier than his own).
  • Stalling the Sip: Blaze (as César) is offered a birthday cake which he knows to be poisoned. Before he cuts it, he makes a big deal about how there's a fly buzzing around and walking on the cake... and now it's dead. The conspirators are angrily telling him to cut the cake already, so he throws it at them to escape.
  • Verbal Backspace: Salluste on entering Blaze's room:
    Salluste: This place is a dump! How can you live in such a pigsty?
    Blaze: This is where Monseñor houses his servants.
    Salluste: Very nice place you've got here.
  • Villain Protagonist: While most of Louis de Funès's roles were at worst Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists, Salluste is a true bad guy (with Blaze as a Beleaguered Assistant). A corrupt, greedy, snobbish, bad-tempered nobleman who is enjoying abusing his power and living in luxuries on the back of the people of Spain and without any redeeming quality. Whether as an Evil Tax Collector, or later after his disgrace scheming to discredit the Queen at all cost. Still, he stays Laughably Evil throughout. And, as De Funès performance always show, the slapstick he suffers all over the movie is Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Villainous Crossdresser:
    • It's not out of habit but for his safety: Salluste dresses as a Spanish Grande Dame to approach Blaze in a tavern. He needs the disguise because the mob is burning his effigy right next door on a public place.
    • At the very end, Salluste's grand plan to regain power? To be crowned Queen. He's not exactly clinging to sanity by this point.
  • Visual Pun: The Grandees of Spain are called "Les Grands d'Espagne" in French, which means "The Great Ones", but can also be translated as "The Tall Ones"; with the exception of De Funès, the actors were selected for their sizes, making their monicker quite literal.
  • Wheel of Pain: The Barbaresque forced labour, where César, the regicide noblemen and, at the end, Salluste and Blaze are sent to consists of a large wheel that pumps water for a tiny "pet" palm tree of a Bedouin chief.

Alternative Title(s): La Folie Des Grandeurs


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