Paris, France, early 19th century. The legendary convict François Vidocq lives in disguise trying to escape from a tragic past that torments him. When, after an unfortunate event, he crosses paths with the police chief, he makes a bold decision that will turn the ruthless mastermind of the Parisian underworld against him.
Four erotic tales from in various historical eras. The first, ‘The Tide’, is set in the present day, and concerns a student and his young female cousin stranded on the beach by the tide, secluded from prying eyes. ‘Therese Philosophe’ is set in the nineteenth century, and concerns a girl being locked in her bedroom, where she contemplates the erotic potential of the objects contained within it. ‘Erzsebet Bathory’ is a portrait of the sixteenth-century countess who allegedly bathed in the blood of virgins, while ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ concerns an incestuous fifteenth-century orgy involving Lucrezia, her brother, and her father the Pope.
Paris, in the early 1960s. Jean-Louis Joubert is a serious but uptight stockbroker, married to Suzanne, a starchy class-conscious woman and father of two arrogant teenage boys, currently in a boarding school. The affluent man lives a steady yet boring life. At least until, due to fortuitous circumstances, Maria, the charming new maid at the service of Jean-Louis’ family, makes him discover the servants’ quarter on the sixth floor of the luxury building he owns and lives in. There live a crowd of lively Spanish maids who will help Jean-Louis to open to a new civilization and a new approach of life. In their company – and more precisely in the company of beautiful Maria – Jean-Louis will gradually become another man, a better man.
The Comte de Gonzague schemes against his cousin, the Duc de Nevers, even though he is the Duke’s heir and will inherit his estates. The Count has kept secret the existence of the Duke’s bastard, recently born. When the Duke learns of his child, he journeys to wed the mother, a baron’s daughter, in her father’s isolated chateau. The occupants of the castle are surprised and murdered by the Count and his men. The only ones to escape are the Duke’s friend, the skilled swordsman Lagardère, and the infant, a girl, now the rightful heiress to the Duke’s vast fortune. The Count believes the pair to have drowned, when in fact they have been concealed by a travelling troupe of Italian players. Twenty years pass. The Count has discovered that the two survive and seeks to have them slain. But Lagardère gains the confidence of the Count, and employment as his bookkeeper, through his clever disguise as a hunch-back…
Molière, a down-and-out actor-cum-playwright up to his ears in debt. When the wealthy Jourdain offers to cover that debt (so that Molière’s theatrical talents might help Jourdain win the heart of a certain widowed marquise), hilarity ensues.
Two young girls meet, Reinette from the countryside and Mirabelle from Paris, and decide to take a flat together in Paris where they attend University. Four successive stories about their daily lives illustrate the very different views, characters and relation to the world of these two friends.
Martin, an ex-Parisian well-heeled hipster passionate about Gustave Flaubert who settled into a Norman village as a baker, sees an English couple moving into a small farm nearby. Not only are the names of the new arrivals Gemma and Charles Bovery, but their behavior also seems to be inspired by Flaubert’s heroes.
A sixteen-year-old boy insinuates himself into the house of a fellow student from his literature class and writes about it in essays for his French teacher. Faced with this gifted and unusual pupil, the teacher rediscovers his enthusiasm for his work, but the boy’s intrusion will unleash a series of uncontrollable events.
Pierre, a professional dancer, suffers from a serious heart disease. While he is waiting for a transplant which may (or may not) save his life, he has nothing better to do than look at the people around him, from the balcony of his Paris apartment. When Elise, his sister with three kids and no husband, moves in to his place to care for him, Pierre does not change his new habits. And instead of dan
Serge Tanneur (Fabrice Luchini) is at the pinnacle of his acting career when he decides to turn his back on show business and become a hermit living off of France’s Atlantic coast. Three years later, Gauthier Valence (Lambert Wilson), a beloved TV actor, shows up on the island to offer Serge a role in his directorial debut – a rendition of Molière’s classic play, “The Misanthrope”. Serge refuses at first, but then suggests that they rehearse the first scene and after five days he’ll decide if he wants to dothe play or not. What ensues is a battle of brawn and wits and peculiar encounters with a hotel maid who longs to be a pornstar and an Italian divorcée.