REVIEW – FILM REVIEW – Xavier Giannoli takes his adaptation of Honoré de Balzac’s “Lost Illusions” very high, the story of an ambitious young man getting drunk on artistic and social illusions in the Paris of the Restoration. Presented at the 78th edition of the Venice Film Festival, the film delights and moves in its exploration of “French genius”, in a big cinema fire.
Xavier Giannoli’s new film, Lost illusions, presented at the Venice Film Festival and in competition, delighted the press and festival-goers present in the city of the Doges. The French director adapts the work of Honoré de Balzac, in a romantic and critical film on ambition, vanity, the literate Parisian society of the early 19th century, a society and individuals caught between a liberal economy of information and culture, and the interests of a monarchist, conservative and reactionary state nobility. The film has two hearts beating towards each other, which fail to merge. There is the journey of Lucien Chardon, from an anonymous small anonymous printing press in Angoulême to the ephemeral Parisian journalistic glory where he believes he will become Lucien De Rubempré, and there is the social and cultural critical approach of the time.
These two axes are developed in their depth and with a grand style, elegant without grandiloquence, in a Paris reconstituted brilliantly. Lost illusions is a very ambitious film, and a frank success which comes to conclude a very long project for the director. This one comes out here the big game and lights a big fire, with the risk of burning the threads of his brilliant puppet show.
Xavier Giannoli, master of the big game
After The apparition, released in 2018, Xavier Giannoli undertakes his great work. A long-standing dream and project, based on the novel he always dreamed of adapting: Lost illusions by Honoré de Balzac. With a very substantial budget of over 19 million euros, a story that will take its hero from Angoulême to the Paris of the Restoration, Lost illusions is a reflection of the excessiveness of the ambitions of its characters. Xavier Giannoli succeeds in a very great film, unlike others who did not adapt well to these conditions – we can for example think of the very ambitious and moving, but disappointing, A people and their king. Lost Illusions is indeed a cinema of wonder and reflection that offers a very wide range of sensations and emotions.
One of the first qualities of the film, it digs deep into its themes but takes care not to lose its viewer, keeping it in a very effective visual and sound spectacle. He thus succeeds in captivating on a subject and in a genre over which boredom can often hover. We never get bored in Lost illusions.
The magnificence of the Parisian salons and receptions is matched by that of the costumes, the biting and ironic dialogues of the ambitious are opposed by the delicacy of loving feelings. To the romanticism and the initial purity of Lucien Chardon still responds the cynicism and arrogance of Lucien who has almost become De Rubempré, when finally to the pleasure of fleeting success is opposed the sticky sadness of the tenacious disillusion that follows.
To embody this grandiose human comedy, the cast is exemplary. Benjamin Voisin, ideal in the role of Lucien transported by illusions then made cynical and arrogant, Vincent Lacoste brilliant and captivating as cheerful, disillusioned but funny and light editor, Cécile de France and Jeanne Balibar as ladies of the world, the first sensitive and soft, the second superior and Machiavellian. Let us also note Xavier Dolan as a successful writer, very fair in his ambition and also in his real humanity. Gérard Depardieu, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing and and the much missed Jean-François Stévenin, perfect agents of the chaos in which all immerse themselves with delight.
Dancing in a big fire
The film therefore shines by its mastery and its perfect distance from all the subjects it tackles, but with the exception of one, which happens to be central in Lost illusions. The representation of Paris, the incarnation of the provincial nobility and that of Paris is skillfully carried out, as is the follow-up of the physical and psychological course of Lucien in his rise to glory. But where Xavier Giannoli runs out of steam in his brilliant race, it is time to paint with acid the world of publishing and that of the critical press, embodied in particular by Étienne Lousteau (Vincent Lacoste) and the editor Dauriat (Gérard Depardieu).
These sequences, central to the story and masterfully staged, are obviously also found in Balzac’s novel, and naturally fit into the film. The actors …