Fake news is the order of the day in this exuberant satire by French director Xavier Giannoli, set in the lavish world of high society Paris in the 1820s.
Based on the classic novel by Honore de Balzac, Lost Illusions follows the path of the idealistic provincial lad Lucienne de Rubempre (Benjamin Voisin) as he sets out to make his name in the city.
Lucienne is a poet with illusions of grandeur. His fulsome verses have already won him the heart of the aristocratic beauty Louise de Bargeton (Cecile de France) and he is convinced that in Paris he will quickly find a publisher.
He is soon disillusiioned. Not only does the lovely Louise dump him as soon as she realises that an affair with a handsome country bumpkin would guarantee social ruin; but the powerful Parisian publisher Dauriat (Gerard Depardieu in a fine cameo role) laughs at the idea of printing a book of his poems.
Within days he is alone and penniless, lost on the streets of the bustling city.
He finds a job waiting on tables in a restaurant, and it is there that he meets the cheerfully cynical journalist Etienne Lousteau ( Vincent Lacoste), who offers him work.
“I admire the work of journalists,” says Lucien. “You enlighten people about art, the world…”
“My job is to make the shareholders rich,” laughs Etienne.
Later, to the cheers of his fellows, Etienne announces the newspaper’s new policy: “We will not publish any article for less than 500 francs.”
In the corrupt world of the day, everything is for sale. If a painter, an author or an actor wants a favourable review, he has only to pay. If someone wants to destroy a performance, catcalls and boos are available for the right price.
Lucien, who is a gifted writer, soon adopts a witty, satirical style which brings him fame and fortune but leaves no room for idealism or ethics.
He falls in love with a talented young actress Coralie (Salome Dewaels) and embraces a life of rich living, gambling and excess.
Director Giannoli and cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne do a wonderful job of portraying the giddy, careless world of Paris in the 1820s. The acting is excellent, and there is remarkable attention to detail.
All the time we know that disaster is around the corner, thanks to an accompanying voiceover which tells us we are witnessing a tragedy.
The film altogether is highly enjoyable, even if it leaves us with an overwhelming feeling of cynicism.
Lost Illusions is now showing at Luna Leederville, Luna On Essex and the Windsor Cinema.
Watch the trailer…