A dry, jaundiced, and quirky 1996 look at the court of Louis XVI, seen from the vantage point of an engineer (Charles Berling) hoping to persuade the king to allow him to dam a river and thereby control a malaria epidemic in his home province. Directed by Patrice Leconte (Monsieur Hire), from a thoughtful if less than profound script by Remi Waterhouse, Michel Fessler, and Eric Vicaut, this holds one’s interest, at least as an alternative to the greeting-card idealism of most period art movies. (Judith Godreche is a particular standout as the daughter of a physician, played by Jean Rochefort, who takes the engineer under his wing.) With Bernard Giraudeau and Fanny Ardant. 102 min. (JR)

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