- Colin Fraser
FOUR STARS A young man seeking fame and fortune as a poet succumbs to the temptations of Paris, and makes more than one enemy along the way. PERIOD DRAMA FRANCE French Language #LOSTILLUSIONS
Starring Benjamin Voisin, Cecile De France
For a French country boy there is only one place to make your name as a poet - Paris. And so it was for Lucien Chardon (Benjamin Voisin), a dewy eyed youngster whose lover, the (married) Louise de Bargeton (a magnetic Cecile De France), took her fledgling writer to the city. While she sought to conceal their relationship, Louise introduced him to society, an opportunity Lucien seized with a notebook in one hand and a quill in the other. While they escaped prying eyes at home, neither were prepared for the prying eyes and gossipy tongues of Paris. A scene is set for ruin.
Yet Lucien is sharp witted and soon catches the favour of a young newspaper editor hungry for a his new friend’s talent. Their scandal rag, like so many, sold kindness to the highest bidder. Want your new theatre show to work? Pay Lucien for a favourable review. Pay poorly and suffer the consequences. In demand and thus protected, the golden boy soars high, forgiven his country manners. They even forgive him his actress girlfriend, at least until the wheel of fortune shifts and his friends, allies and enemies alike sense weakness. The position is odious and Lucien has become exposed.
Based on Balzac’s novel, LOST ILLUSIONS is a sumptuous film overflowing with carriage costumes and costumed carriages as it revels in the worst of human nature like a gangster movie (where words replace bullets to inflict maximum damage). Paris of the late 1800’s erupts in all its majesty and wonder, its filth and decadence but always as a city of glorious opportunity. It’s impossible not be seduced by it ourselves, and so we are, but spare a thought for poor Lucien whose youthful resolve is, ultimately, no match for a world determined to eat him whole.
At the film’s heart are tremendous performances by Voisin, Vincent Lacoste as his editor, Xavier Dolan as his nemesis, Salomé Dewael’s as his girlfriend plus De France (mistress) and Gerard Depardieu (publisher) to round things out for all ages. Writer/director Xavier Giannoli (MARGUERITE) makes the very most of this incredible talent to craft a glorious rags-to-riches tale. It’s one that may lean on familiar themes and narrative beats (and an unnecessarily intrusive voice-over) but does so with such energy and vitality that you’ll wonder how two and half hours can pass so quickly. Absolutely everything about LOST ILLUSIONS is just so wonderfully, sickeningly, fabulously rich that it becomes the cinematic equivalent of a chocolate gâteau; it’s never good for one but impossible not to enjoy.