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Lost Illusions

Illusions perdues

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Winner of 7 Cesar (French Oscar) awards including Best Film, this adaptation of Balzac’s Illusions perdues is a lavish costume drama with a thoroughly modern bite, a tragi-comedy about a young romantic poet who journeys to Paris with his aristocratic mistress full of hope and conviction, but who soon finds the world will only accommodate him on its own terms, if at all. Lucien (Benjamin Voisin) believes in love, purity, and poetry. But Parisian society in the early 1800s is not about to accept this arriviste as a suitable consort for a countess. Forced to earn his keep, Lucien puts his literary gifts to journalism, reviewing books and theatre. The real money here derives not from the newspaper, but from the publishers and producers who vye for glowing endorsements (or pans for their bitter rivals). Any relation to today’s internet publishing racket is entirely accidental. As Lucien’s fortunes turn for the better on the back of his knack for glib contempt, there are those who believe this influencer needs taking down a peg or two…

Set in much the same milieu as that classic of French cinema Children of Paradise, Giannoli’s film may remind North American audiences of Dangerous Liaisons for its scheming and cynicism, The Age of Innocence for its attention to social decorum and hypocrisy, and even Bridgerton for its salacious sagacity.

“In some ways a very old-fashioned, supremely French movie, full of costumes and quill pens, sex and speechifying, and stylish acting even in the smallest roles. (The Quebecois actor and filmmaker Xavier Dolan, as Lucien’s well-connected rival, is particularly charismatic.) [But] if there’s any justice this movie will become a touchstone and cult object among the grasping, scheming denizens of the current media jungle. Giannoli illuminates the dank frenzy of the 19th-century attention economy with an eye on our own post-truth era. Lost Illusions is sensational.” AO Scott, New York Times

Giannoli knows exactly which buttons to push and for how long. He takes what could have been a fussy adaptation of a dusty tome and turns it into something hugely entertaining.

Bilge Eberi, New York magazine

This sweeping period drama may be up to its eyeballs in costumes and carriages, but it plays with all the brio and jeopardy of a modern-day gangster movie, featuring hack journalists as its antiheroes.

Peter Debruge, Variety

The metropolitan conceit and genial contempt for anything that is not for sale lends a heavy cognac flavour of glib cynicism to the story, but the film’s galloping momentum is exhilarating, and there is broad comedy in its elision of carnal desire and social ambition.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Director

Xavier Giannoli

Cast

Benjamin Voisin, Cécile De France, Vincent Lacoste, Xavier Dolan, Salomé Dewaels, Jeanne Balibar, Gérard Depardieu

Credits
Country of Origin

France

Year

2021

Language

In French with English subtitles

Awards

7 Cesar Awards, including Best Film

19+
141 min

Book Tickets

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Credits

Executive Producer

Christine De Jekel

Producer

Olivier Delbosc, Sidonie Dumas

Screenwriter

Xavier Giannoli

Cinematography

Christophe Beaucarne

Editor

Cyril Nakache

Production Design

Riton Dupire-Clément