“Lost Illusions”, the Balzacian neo-western by Xavier Giannoli

Although the audacity paid off, showering him with honors and César (seven in all, including Best Picture), it’s fair to say that Xavier Giannoli played his part in this adaptation. carefully matured – twenty-seven years all the same – of the second part of “Lost Illusions” by Balzac: “A great provincial man in Paris”. He throws the viewer there in 1820, alongside Lucien Chardon, self-proclaimed de Rubempré, a young poet from Angoumois in search of glory (Benjamin Voisin), into the chaos of the streets, theaters, newspapers of the capital, mafia cesspool where everything is buys and sells (bodies, criticism, the slap). This cruel ransacking of a soul, that of Rubempré, a journalist of complacency turned to seed by dint of compromises, this sacking of the purest feelings and characters, this great unbolting of illusions – the common thread of his filmography – , this incoercible shipwreck of a world towards an uninhibited capitalism…

Loyal and excruciatingly contemporary

Giannoli, who claims to have thought of Max Ophuls, films them with mad virtuosity. At the antithesis of an academic cinema, the staging, attentive to the background, constantly plays with speed and movement. The voice-over – endorsed without the slightest accent by the Quebec director Xavier Dolan – makes Balzacian prose resonate. The dialogues slam with breathtaking modernity and ferocity. The cast has a mouthful. Music grows everything.

Beneath the bitter snickering of little roosters – the scene where Etienne Lousteau (Vincent Lacoste), a seasoned bastard, lectures Rubempré on how to write just about anything and its opposite – and under the acid paint of greed and mediocrity – “In the name of bad faith, false rumor and publicity, I baptize you a journalist” –, the film refers to our twilight. A deleterious Western to which we are subjected every day by conflicts of interest, all-powerful shareholders, the rush of fake news, buzz and controversies that corrode the spirit. Both faithful and excruciatingly contemporary.

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Tuesday September 20 at 9 p.m. on Canal+. French drama by Xavier Giannoli (2021). With Benjamin Voisin, Vincent Lacoste, Cécile de France, Salomé Dewaels. 2:30. (Multicast and On Demand).

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