Beaumarchais, the insolent

Beaumarchais , the insolent is aFrench filmdirected byEdouard Molinaro, released in1996, after a play bySacha Guitry.


1773 . The xviii th century honed his last act. Louis XV prepares to leave the scene, and behind the scenes, already, Louis XVI is preparing. This is the time of great ideas, and bad subjects. Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais , son of a watchmaker, a watchmaker himself, found with Voltaire that the clocks of his time were dangerously retarding. He was going to work on putting them back on time …

Gudin , son of the steward of Voltaire arrives in Paris , with a recommendation of the latter, to meet with Mr. de Beaumarchais to present his texts. Beaumarchais sends it to Mademoiselle Marion Ménard, so that she gives him an opinion. However, he does not have the time to tell him half of an Alexandrine that the Duke of Chaulnes , mad with rage and jealousy, breaks the door in search of Beaumarchais, visibly cuckolded by him (then that he had however broken with Marion). He announces that he will go kill him. Marion then begs Gudin to arrive before the Duke and to go and tell Beaumarchais.

Thanks to the crowded streets of Paris, Gudin arrives on time and tells his story to Beaumarchais. He confesses that he had sent her to Marion to give a sweeter judgment than his, that his work was bad on the bottom (” You just write, but you think wrongly “) what Gudin already knew, Voltaire having made the same remark to him. Beaumarchais hired him, however, as secretary and biographer.

Beaumarchais is on trial against the parliament and the Count de la Blache , the latter accusing him of being a forger and having robbed him of an inheritance that was his right. He also uses this long trial (3 years) as a political platform against the parliament he considers corrupt. Although he succeeds in proving that his accuser, Goëzman, representing the parliament, is corrupt, the Court condemns him to the loss of his particle (de Beaumarchais), the seizure of his property and the prohibition to exercise a public office. .

Thanks to the protection of the Prince de Conti and Antoine de Sartine who plead his case with the king, he gets an audience with Louis XV . The latter offers him to become a spy in exchange for the restoration of his rights. He agrees, and must then contact the Knight of Eon in England , to recover a plan showing the plan of invasion of England by France . In an interview with the knight, he meets Arthur Lee, representing American insurgents, seeking support for the war of independence. After retrieving the plan, he asks the knight to make an appointment with Lee. This encounter breaks down when the English guard, warned by the knight, storms the cafe by the river where it takes place. Lee throws himself into the river to escape, Beaumarchais being captured, sure to be protected by the King of France, Louis XV . Unfortunately, the latter having died the day before, Beaumarchais is left without protection. He is arrested and imprisoned.

During this captivity which he uses to advance his Barber of Seville , he meets a pamphleteer (and one of the admirers) he uses to get out of prison (revealing where was the printing press and the original of a pamphlet on the impotence of Louis XVI ). In exchange for Lord Rochford’s help in his release, he agrees to finish the barber . Unfortunately, he weighed down his work with vulgar replicas, which provokes a rejection of the public. Given the failure of the play, Beaumarchais decides to resume his business. Gudin meaning that it is enough to delete the last added replicas and to return to its first version, Beaumarchais, disappointed, entrusts to him the rewriting of the Barber.

Beaumarchais decides to help the American rebels. He obtained an interview with King Louis XVI , whom he persuaded his predecessor was about to do, and proposed to him a contract according to which France undertook only one-third of the necessary expenses, and charged himself even a third, the king of Spain taking charge of the last.

Meanwhile, Gudin has finished rewriting the barber . The play is played and enjoys tremendous success. During an interview with the Prince de Conti and the Count of Provence , he promises the latter a suite at the barber for the inauguration of his new theater at the Palais du Luxembourg . Then, meeting Antoine de Sartine, who became Secretary of State for the Navy, he is informed that the King agrees to help American insurgents, but not officially. He charges Beaumarchais to provide them with weapons, by his own means and without protection in case of failure.

Beaumarchais founded an import-export company, under the name Rodrigue Hortales . While thirty boats loaded with weapons were sent, he receives no American merchandise in exchange, forcing his company into bankruptcy. Meeting with US Ambassador Benjamin Franklin , he gives him a letter of thanks from the US Congress. He understands then that he will never be paid back.

The Prince of Conti is dying. Having abused the pleasures of the flesh, he has only a short time to live. Receiving Gudin before the arrival of Beaumarchais, he asks him to recall his promise to Beaumarchais to write a sequel to the barber . Receiving Beaumarchais who advises him to receive the sacraments, while he is not a believer, the prince accepts in exchange for the promise of Beaumarchais to write a sequel to the Barber .

Recovering funds from the actors of the Comédie-Française who have enriched themselves by playing the Barber , he writes the sequel, The Marriage of Figaro . Passing the royal censorship, the play is finally performed at the Luxembourg theater in the presence of the Count of Provence. But, while the first is played, the king is read the play by his wife, and is shocked at one of Figaro’s final retorts: ” Without the freedom to blame, there is no flattering praise. Only the little men fear the little writings.  “. He then decides to imprison Beaumarchais by a lettre de cachet. While Beaumarchais takes advantage of the triumph of the first, royal guards come to stop him.

Several months have passed. The king, judging that the imprisonment has lasted long enough, decides to release Beaumarchais. This one refuses, unless the king orders the resumption of the Marriage of Figaro , and that the council in full there assists. The king accedes to this request, the first stone of the French Revolution .

Technical sheet

  • Original title: Beaumarchais, the insolent
  • Directed by: Edouard Molinaro , assisted by Vincent Trintignant and Robert Kechichian
  • Scenario: Jean-Claude Brisville and Édouard Molinaro after Sacha Guitry’s play
  • Production: Charles Gassot
  • Music: Jean-Claude Petit
  • Photography: Michael Epp
  • Editing: Véronique Parnet
  • Sets: Jean-Marc Kerdelhue
  • Costumes: Sylvie de Segonzac
  • Budget: CHF 16 million
  • Country: France
  • Language: French
  • Format: Color
  • Genre: historical film
  • Duration: 100 minutes
  • Release date :  


  • Fabrice Luchini : Beaumarchais , watchmaker, adventurer, weapons dealer, libertine, playwright
  • Sandrine Kiberlain : Marie-Thérèse Willermaulaz, the companion and muse of Beaumarchais
  • Manuel Blanc : Paul-Philippe Gudin from La Brenellerie , admirer, collaborator and biographer of Beaumarchais
  • Michel Aumont : Baron de Breteuil
  • Jean-François Balmer : Antoine de Sartine , lieutenant-general of the police then minister of the Navy, friend of Beaumarchais
  • Jean-Claude Brialy : the abbot
  • Patrick Bouchitey : Mr. Lejay, a bookseller and publisher
  • Evelyne Bouix : Mrs. Vigée Lebrun , female painter, friend of the Queen and representing her on the reading committee
  • Isabelle Carré : the actress who plays Rosine
  • José Garcia : the actor who plays Figaro
  • Alain Chabat : a courtier in Versailles
  • Pierre Gérard: Count of Provence
  • Judith Godrèche : Marie-Antoinette
  • Murray Head : William, Lord Rochford, the English friend of Beaumarchais
  • Axelle Laffont : Mariette Lejay, the wife of the bookseller-publisher Lejay
  • Martin Lamotte : the Count of Blache
  • Guy Marchand : a man at the exit of the court
  • François Morel : the complainant farmer
  • Bruno Lochet : the French jailer
  • Claire Nebout : Eon Knight
  • Michel Piccoli : Prince of Conti , a noble who befriends Beaumarchais
  • Michel Serrault : Louis XV
  • Florence Thomassin : Marion Ménard, a theater actress, one of Beaumarchais’s mistresses
  • Jacques Weber : Duke of Chaulnes , a noble, enemy then friend of Beaumarchais
  • Jean Yanne : Louis Goëzman , the prosecutor at the Beaumarchais trial
  • Dominique Besnehard : Louis XVI
  • Maka Kotto : Cézaire, the black servant of Beaumarchais
  • Jeff Nuttall  (in French: Roger Carel ) : Benjamin Franklin , the US Ambassador
  • Jay Benedict : the man in gray
  • Dominic Gould : Arthur Lee , an American patriot
  • Niels Dubost : the actor who plays Count Almaviva
  • Marc Dudicourt : the actor who plays Bartholo
  • Cecile Van Den Abeele : Suzanne
  • Étienne Draber : Brid’oison
  • David Gabison : Doublemain
  • Marie Delerm : Marceline
  • Séverine Ferrer : Lison-Cherubin
  • Patrice Laffont : the customs officer
  • Jean-Marie Besset : Desfontaines , a writer, member of the reading committee
  • Pascal Thomas : the theatrical critic
  • Sandrine Le Berre : the girl of Conti
  • Roland Blanche : Charles Théveneau de Morande , a pamphleteer (uncredited)
  • Roger Brierley : the printer
  • Maurice Illouz : the theater concierge
  • Marc Habib : the chamberlain
  • André Oumansky : the president of the court
  • Léon Clémence : the commander
  • Pierre Arditi (narration, uncredited)

Filming Locations

  • Oise
    • Castle Chantilly
  • Yvelines
    • At the Palace of Versailles
  • Seine et Marne
    • Fontainebleau castle
  • Gironde
    • Bordeaux (notably the Court of Appeal, Place de la République and the Grand Théâtre )
  • Charente Maritime
    • La Rochelle (notably the Salle Haute Hall of the Bourse, Chamber of Commerce)
    • Rochefort-sur-Mer (including the Golden Cup Theater, 101 rue de la République)
  • England
    • Gloucester


The film remained nine weeks in the poster. He found himself third at the box office behind Sweet Pedal and Ridicule .

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