Que la fte commence... (Let Joy Reign Supreme) (1975)

 

 

 

Director:     Bertrand Tavernier. 

Starring:     Philippe Noiret (Philippe d'Orlans, le Rgent),  Jean Rochefort (L'abb Dubois),  Jean-Pierre Marielle (Le marquis de Pontcallec),  Christine Pascal (Emilie),  Alfred Adam (Villeroi),  Jean-Roger Caussimon (Le cardinal),  Grard Desarthe (Le duc de Bourbon / Duke of Bourbon),  Michel Beaune (Le capitaine La Griollais),  Monique Chaumette (La gouvernante de Pontcallec),  Franois Dyrek (Montlouis),  Jean-Paul Farr (Le pPre Burdo),  Nicole Garcia (La Fillon),  Raymond Girard (Chirac),  Jacques Hilling (L'abb Gratellard),  Bernard La Jarrige (Amaury de Lambilly),  Jacqueline Parent (Sverine, la filleule du Rgent). 

party-boy Regent over the young Louis XV, France

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

A religious service is being given on the shore of Brittany.  A doll vendor talks to two small girls, sisters.  He gives them a doll and then starts walking away with them.  Someone notices them, is alarmed, and a mob soon chases the man.  The Marquis de Pontcallec on horseback chases the man down and hits him hard with a club.  The man falls and rolls a little way down the cliff.  Pontcallec jumps off his horse to interrogate the man.  He asks:  "Who paid you to abduct the two girls?"  The man says nothing since he is now dead.  So Pontcallec tells the mob that the man told him that it was the Regent of France (Philippe II of Orleans) who paid him in order to send the two girls to the French settlement in Louisiana, North America. 

Brittany, Palm Sunday, 1719.  Four years after Louis XIV's death.  Two horsemen in white masks and with pistols ride to a meeting place.  As they arrive the first one fires his pistol into the air.  The men join the meeting of the men interested the independence of Brittany from France.  The news of the day is that Spain has agreed to land troops on Brittany.  (France is at war with Spain.)  The Regent is regarded as a usurper of power from King Louis XV.  A woman comes to the meeting, but is told it's a men only affair.  She says that she is standing in for her husband who can not be present and is granted permission to attend.

A doctor operates on the 24 year old Duchess Joufflotte, the daughter of the Regent.  She dies.  The Abbe Dubois arrives and speaks with the Regent.  Philippe is not sure that Montesquiou really grasps the situation in Brittany.  The nobles under the Marquis of Pontcallec want a Breton Republic.  Dubois says he will have the King of England write the Regent to request that Dubois be named Archbishop of Cambrai. 

A carriage arrives.  A woman gets out.  One of the servants says she is La Fillon's whore.  Another asks if Joufflotte really slept with her father?  The woman is Emilie and she is a mistress of Philippe of Orleans. She speaks with Philippe.  He tells her:  "All my children are mad, Emilie."  One of his daughters is an abbess and he has a son who hates women.   Dubois is there and he wants to be made an archbishop. 

Two soldiers go around shanghaiing men and women to be forced to go to Louisiana.  They even take French prostitutes.  The Marquis of Pontcallec is with a prostitute and he is grabbed by the soldiers.  He is able to buy his way out by giving one of the men one of his rings.  He takes the prostitute with him when he leaves.  As he takes her back to the bordello, they see a man hanged for pilfering.  Pontcallec wants to speak with Philippe.  Dubois speaks to the English ambassador to France who wants to know why he wants to be archbishop in these delicate times of Breton uprisings.  Dubois answers that they have just arrested the ringleader Pontcallec.  The official replies that arrests are not enough.  He asks why would the English king ask the Regent to name him Archbishop of Cambrai.  Dubois says he will do it in return for putting down the Brittany uprisings.  As the Abbe mulls over what the English ambassador told him, he engages in sex.  Dubois realizes that he has got to get his hands on Pontcallec to show him off as one of his accomplishments in putting down the Breton uprisings. 

 The men and women forced to go to Louisiana are now forced to become part of a couple and marry.  Pontcallec was one of those forced to get married.  Dubois looks for Poncallec.  One of the soldiers tells him that the man left for Louisiana three days ago promising to set Louisiana ablaze.  Another soldier tells him that Pontcallec and his new wife escaped to Brittany.  Dubois is happy to hear this. 

The Breton rebels learn that the Spanish king is sending three shiploads of troops to Brittany.  Pontcallec is ecstatic and yells:  "It's war!"  He thinks that now they can oust the Regent and install the Duke of Maine in his place.  Then they will denounce the Triple Alliance.  Pontcallec finds out that his wife speaks a language unknown to him. 

A cousin of the Regent speaks to Philippe on behalf of a Mr. Law in the matter of speculation on the Louisiana settlement.  The cousin wants to become the tutor to the young king replacing another man.  Philippe does not really like the idea.  The Regent flirts with a woman named Marie-Madeleine.  He tells he that he wants to buy her house (that he gave her) to give it to another woman (actually his young goddaughter Sverine who he has a thing for).  She agrees, but wants to be paid in land in Louisiana or Mississippi. 

Dubois tells Philippe that Pontcallec has some 3,000 men.  This is a great exaggeration for when Pontcallec tries to gather his forces he soon realizes that the peasants are not with him.  Philippe feels indebted to Dubois because the man saved his life at the Battle of Neerwinden.   The Regent's soldiers go to Brittany to look for the outlaws.  In a convent in Brittany, the Regent's goddaughter hides the fleeing Pontcallec in her large bath tub.  When the soldiers leave, Pontcallec comes up for air.  It has been said that Pontcallec is going to assassinate the Regent.  In his gratitude, Pontcallec tells Sverine that if he meets up with the Regent he may just spare his life in memory of his goddaughter.  Pontcallec tells his supporters not to tell the Spanish that he only has three dragoons. 

The Regent's soldiers surround Pontcallec and arrest him.  Political pressure is applied by the English to have Pontcallec and three other Bretons publicly executed.  Dubois brags that they have quelled a serious plot.   The Regent's cousin has three carloads of gold sent to Switzerland. 

The judge sentences Pontcallec for high treason and felony to be beheaded.  In addition, all his property and ownings will be confiscated and any house or other structure connected to him will be torn down.  The three other Bretons are yet to be judged.  They are also found guilty and sentenced to the same fate.  Dubois takes the execution order to be signed by the Regent.  Four will be executed to be followed by twenty more executions.  Philippe tells Dubois that he will not execute these men.  He reminds Dubois that he had told him that Pontcallec had 3,000 soldiers.  Dubois threatens to resign if Philippe does not sign.  

Pontcallec and the three other condemned men await execution.  A platform for the executions is being constructed outside below their window.  The nuns and Sverine do not want Pontcallec to be executed.  The mother superior goes to Philippe to make sure the execution does not take place.  She says about Pontcallec:  "He's our hero."  The nun leaves.  Philippe then talks with Dubois.  He knows now from the nun that Sverine has sent him two letters that Dubois hid from him.  He demands that Dubois give them to him.  Dubois tells him that he burned the letters because he did not want Sverine to stop him from executing Pontcallec and the other men. 

Emilie takes Philippe to see a fortune teller.  The fortune teller says that Philippe will be crowned king of France.  But with all the recent problems Philippe says that he does not want to be king.  To cheer himself up he throws a big costume party where everyone is to "let joy reign supreme".   Philippe decides to give Emilie the house that was supposed to go to Sverine.  Dubois arrives in costume to the party.  After dinner Marie-Madeleine asks Philippe permission to have one more act of sex with a handsome fellow named Picard.  Permission granted. 

Philippe starts to go a little crazy.  He is convinced that he smells an order of rot.  Worse, he thinks that his hands smell of rot.  Emilie washes his left hand, but he says he still has the odor.  He asks Dubois to cut of his hand.  Instead they take Philippe to the doctor.  Philippe, Dubois and Emilie get into a coach to go to the doctor.  Philippe still insists that Dubois be the actual person to cut off his hand.  He says to Dubois:  "You like blood, Archbishop."  Dubois is happy to hear that he is now Archbishop, but he still doesn't want to cut off Philippe's hand.  As the coach races to the doctor, the vehicle runs over a peasant's cart.  Their own coach is disabled in the accident.  Philippe, Dubois and Emilie get out of their coach to see what happened.   The Regent gives the woman some money to help with expenses.  Then Philippe and Dubois get in another coach and proceed on to the doctor's place.  Emilie remains behind to check on the boy, but the boy is dead. 

The enraged sister looks at the royal coach.  She grabs a tree limb and starts to beat it.  She then puts some hay inside the coach.  Others join her in placing hay inside the coach.  She lights the hay and the coach burns up.  The young woman then goes over to her dead brother and holds his body up.  She tells the body to "see it burn".  "We shall burn the others, brother --  many others." 

 

My wife didn't like the movie at all.  I thought it way too slow.  It was boring.  It will help the viewer of the film to know something about the historical background before starting the movie.  I delved into it after I watched the movie.  It took me awhile, but it finally dawned on me that the movie was showing the moral bankruptcy of the Regent's lifestyle of parties and orgies and the accompanying social, political and economic problems.  That's why it's important to know something about the ways in which the Regent screwed up before watching the film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:
 

 

1674  --  the future Philippe II, Duke of Orlans is born.  He was the nephew of King Louis XIV (who assumed real power 1661 and ruled to 1715).  Later he was the regent of France for Louis XV from 1715 to 1723, an era known as the Regency or La Rgence. (The city of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA is named after him.)

1678  --  King Louis XIV emerges from the Franco-Dutch War the most powerful monarch in Western Europe.

1688-1697  --  the Nine Years' War (aka King William's War).

1691  --  he was at the siege of the Walloon city of Mons, Belgium. 

1692  --  Philippe married Franoise-Marie de Bourbon (16771749), aka Mademoiselle de Blois, his first cousin.  She was the legitimized youngest daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. The king pressured Philippe to marry his daughter.  The couple had 8 children (one who died in childhood).  Philippe also had three illegitimate children. 

1692 (August 3)  --  Philippe fought with distinction at the Battle of Steenkerque (then in the Southern Netherlands, now southwest of Brussels, Belgium)as part of the Nine Years' War.  The French won against a British-Dutch-German army under Prince William of Orange. 

1693 (July 29)  --  he fought at the Battle of Landen (or Neerwinden), in today's Belgium.  The French cavalry drove the allied army of King William III of England from the field.  The French did not follow up on their victory and William escaped. 

1695  --  he also fought at the Namur.  1692 siege of Belgian city of Namur, in which King Louis XIV took the city.  In 1695 William III of Orange and Coehoorn recaptured the place for the Allies after a two months siege.

1697  --  end of the Nine Years' War.  By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick King Louis IV returned Luxembourg and other Reunion gains, but kept Alsace and Strasbourg. Lorraine returned to its duke. Louis abandoned all gains on the right bank of the Rhine and the new French fortresses of La Pile, Mont Royal and Fort Louis were to be demolished.

Philippe studied natural science. 

1706  --  given a command in Italy. 

1707-1708  --  commanded in Spain.  He was suspected of wanting to take the place of Philip V of Spain.  (This made the French King Louis XIV mad at him and he was held is disfavor.)

1715 (September 1)  --  death of Louis XIV.  His five-year-old great-grandson is crowned King Louis XV of France.

1715  --  in Louis XIV's will, he appointed Philippe president of the council of regency of the young king Louis XV.  Philippe had parliament annul the will and then assumed absolute power.  He then became regent.

The Regent proved a failure because of his excessive pursuit of pleasure. He would often held orgies.  And he was an atheist.  His Regency became one of the most corrupt periods in French history.

He may at times have been weak and vacillating, but he did form an alliance with England, Austria, and the Netherlands.  He fought and won a war against Spain.  On the other hand, under him the risky operations of  banker John Law led to Law's own bankruptcy and then to a in the public and private affairs of France.

1717 (June 6)  --  he had purchased the world's then largest known diamond for the crown jewels of France.

1718  --  the Cellamare conspiracy is discovered.  This was a a conspiracy which wanted to transfer the Regency to King Philip V of Spain.  Involved were Cardinal Alberoni, the first minister of Spain; the Prince of Cellamare, the Spanish ambassador; Cellamares wife's older brother, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine; and Maines ambitious wife, Anne-Louise-Bndicte, duchesse du Maine.

The Cellamare conspiracy is defeated.

Chief Minister Guillaume Dubois, formerly tutor to the duke of Orleans, caused war to be declared against Spain.  (He had the support of England and the Netherlands in what was known as the Quadruple Alliance.)

1720  --  in the conspiracy of Pontcallec, members of the petty nobility with help from Spain led a tax revolt against the Regency. The marquis de Pontcallec and six others were tried and executed in Nantes for the uprising.

1720  --  Philip V made peace with the Regent. 

1723 (Feb. 15)  --  the French king reaches majority.  Philippe gives up the royal power and is made the king's first minister. 

1723 (Dec. 23)  --  still first minister, Philippe dies. 

 

 

 

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