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Film / The Libertine (2000)

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The Libertine (Le Libertin) is a 2000 French historical comedy film directed by Gabriel Aghion.

In the 18th century, the philosopher Denis Diderot (Vincent Perez) is hard at work writing and printing his Encyclopédie. Due to the Church banning the work, he runs the operation clandestinely in an abandoned chapel in the not-all-there Baron of Holbach's estate, with its eccentric and liberal inhabitants, led by the Baron's wife, doing their best to protect Diderot. In the course of a few days, the Holbach chateau is visited by the painter Madame Therbouche (Fanny Ardant), invited to create a portrait of Diderot, and the Baron's brother, the Cardinal (Michel Serrault), who strongly disapproves of Diderot and the whole Enlightenment business. Hilarity Ensues as everyone tries to keep the Cardinal in the dark about the (very noisy) printing operation.

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Also features a pre-Amélie Audrey Tautou in a relatively small part as the Holbachs' daughter.

Has nothing to do with 2004's The Libertine.


The Libertine'' provides examples of:

  • Arc Words: A phrase that's repeated a lot throughout is "You can't stop progress," reflecting the ultimate defeat of absolute religious authority against science. The Baroness even says it directly to the audience in the last shot of the film.
  • Becoming the Mask: Madame Therbouche, the supposed portraitist, turns out to be a spy sent by the church to find out whether the Encyclopédie is being illegally printed. However by the time this is revealed, she has endeared herself to Diderot's ideals and wants out of the scheme.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: The eccentricity of the Baron d'Holbach is displayed by his building and playing a pig organ.
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  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted. Madame Therbouche tells Diderot about how she had an abortion a few days prior, and she's treated as a tragic character because of it, not an evil one. Diderot is moved into changing his writing to defend the right to abort.
  • Overprotective Dad: Diderot nearly backpedals on his liberal ideas when his daughter expresses an interest in the much older and married Jerfeuil, causing him to change his article on morals to state that individual desires must cave in to the principles of society, which is exactly the opposite of what he'd been espousing. He changes his mind after a conversation with Therbouche about abortion, and to his relief, Jerfeuil turns out to be gay.
  • Public Exposure: Madame Therbouche expresses to Diderot that she has always wanted to paint a great philosopher naked, and Diderot decides to acquiesce to her wish.
  • Quest for Sex: A minor sub-plot involves Diderot's and Holbach's daughters being sick of being virgins. Therbouche reads their palms and predicts that they'll lose their virginity to a circumcised man. That's exactly what happens as they seduce Diderot's Jewish assistant Abraham.

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