French Film Review: Lost Illusions


Based on the novel by Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions was nominated for no less than 14 César Awards this year, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Most Promising Actress, Most Promising Actor , Best Adapted Screenplay – and it won seven, including Best Picture, Screenplay and Cinematography. All this to say: you are going to enjoy it.

In 1821, Lucien de Rubempré (Benjamin Voisin) arrived in Paris as a sensitive and idealistic young poet determined to write a landmark novel. Instead, he finds himself drawn into the world of journalism, whose influence and reach are growing with the help of the printing press, which has become widely available in recent times.

Under the mentorship of publisher Étienne Lousteau (Vincent Lacoste), Lucien agrees to write glowing theater reviews for bribes, achieving material success at the expense of his conscience. With this radical and sumptuous adaptation of one of Honoré de Balzac’s greatest novels, Xavier Giannoli crafts a contemporary tale of corruption amidst an early form of “fake news”. It is amazing, really, that Balzac’s dismantling of the world of corrupt journalism some 200 years ago was so before the letters. And alongside the corrupt hacks, it turns out that Restoration Paris had as many influencers and trolls as we have today. more that changeas they say.

Torrid, romantic and sometimes very funny, Balzac’s universe is brilliantly animated by an all-star cast that includes Gérard Depardieu (particularly in good shape), Jeanne Balibar and Xavier Dolan. At half past two you might be worried he’s running out of pace, but he’s as quick as he is quick-witted.

As with the best costume dramas, despite the bluster of the times, lost illusions has its feet firmly planted in the 21st century, with a spirit and energy that will speak to modern audiences. Balzac would have loved it – and we think you will too.

Featuring: Benjamin Voisin, Vincent Lacoste, Jeanne Balibar, Gerard Depardieu

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Excerpt from France Today magazine


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