Today we live in a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish real news from fake, information from misinformation. The very thought that there are some Factcheckers checking the veracity of all these mighty claims that virtually anyone can make online today is actually completely absurd and unbelievable when you think about it a little better. And while until a few decades ago there were only a few sources from which often strictly filtered information usually came, today we live in times of complete information chaos and one would be happiest if one could simply move away from it all. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible unless you are ready to move somewhere to the top of a mountain or a lighthouse, and that attempts to manipulate the media and distort the real picture is not a fiction of the new age. Honorea de Balzaca.
This not at all easy task was taken over by the experienced French filmmaker Xavier Giannolli, Balzac’s epochal novel spread over almost 700 pages and three books written from 1837 to 1843. And he won “Lost Illusions” or “Illusions perdues” seven Cesar awards in the selection for French film of the year, including the most important, for best film of the year in the competition of titles such as the winner of the Golden Lion in Venice “Happening” or winner Golden Palms in Cannes “Titans”. The premiere of “Lost Illusions” was in the main program of Venice, and indeed Giannolli did an exceptional job, and for European circumstances, a huge budget of 17.5 million dollars apparently spent on great recreation of Paris in the first half of the 19th century. As with all great literary works and films, regardless of whether they were made a hundred or more years ago, the best ones are extremely relevant today and we can see that a lot has seemingly changed, but people have obviously always been the same.
The plot of “Lost Illusions” is set in 1821, the period after the overthrow of Napoleon and the time when young and ambitious people from all over France began to arrive in Paris from all over the world, believing that they would succeed and become famous. Balzac was one of them and that is why he is a perfect insider in the events in Paris and France in the first half of the 19th century, and his works actually offer perhaps the most perfect insight into that period. His characters such as Rastignac from “Father Goriot” or Rubempre from “Lost Illusions” are great examples of the people of that time, and the young and ambitious poet Rubempre (Benjamin Voisin) from the province will move to Paris after his affair with a much older Baroness Louise de Bargeton (Cecile de France).
The young and naive Rubempre will follow the Baroness to Paris, believing that he will soon succeed there as a poet and writer, but it will soon become clear to him that he is just one of countless similar young naive people who believe he will succeed. As it goes, young Rubempre will quickly be fascinated by the lights of the metropolis and a world he practically didn’t even know existed until yesterday. Clearly, no one will publish his songs just like that, and after he starts meeting some people, he will get a job as a journalist. And here we return to the beginning and to the story of fake news, manipulations and lies, bribery, various agendas and personal interests at the expense of accuracy and honesty.
He will quickly realize that money drives absolutely everything and that money can buy absolutely everything, even positive or negative literary or theatrical criticism, and money can literally bury someone and destroy someone’s career. And this is a great film because it shows in an extraordinary way how easy it was to manipulate the public at the time and how almost all these guys who were in the business at the time were corrupt charlatans who thoughtlessly wrote as they were told and paid for it. I can assume that Balzac’s novel when he appeared was viewed by those he described in his work, and in Giannoli’s film we can see what a genius Balzac was and how thanks to him we got a wonderful insight into an extremely interesting and dynamic era.
Although “Lost Illusions” from the beginning to the end is one of those classic, lavish almost Carne costume French dramas, Giannoli did a great job bringing a lot, a lot of darkness inside. There are no classic positives and negatives, but everyone is looking for their place on the social ladder and it is quite clear to us that when someone at least seemingly feels power and fame, how very difficult it is to give up that illusion. Thus, the young Rubempre will take off high to fall even more steeply, and this is happening at an exciting and uncertain time while royalists and liberals are fighting for supremacy. A truly exceptional cast is gathered here, complemented by veteran Gerard Depardieu and young Canadian actor – screenwriter – director Xavier Dolan as a narrator and young writer who will be Rubempre’s patron for a while. Rating 8/10.
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