Lost Illusions IMDb Review – Best Review and Summary

Lost Illusions IMDb Review: “Even now, people in Paris wonder how his narrative came to be, what global movement took him away.” These words, spoken in voiceover inside the opening five minutes of “Lost Illusions,” signpost the route to the finish. Those who have read Honoré de Balzac’s story, which was first serialized in the late 1830s and early 1840s, are familiar with the path from hopeful innocence to shattered illusions. Those who haven’t read it yet will be immediately clued in by the narration.

Lost Illusions IMDb Review
Lost Illusions IMDb Review, Photo: nytimes.com

This is a cautionary tale about selling your gifts to the highest bidder, and about how naiveté can’t stand up to the kind of corruption seen in Paris in the 1820s. Lucien’s existence is defined early on as “tragic,” and so the threat of calamity is constantly present, even in the episodes of triumph that follow.

The film version of Balzac’s book by Xavier Giannoli primarily relies on voiceover, to the point where some parts are essentially an audiobook with graphics attached. This may appear to be a flaw, but the film’s voiceover-heavy moments are really some of its most successful.

Balzac’s obsessively detailed description of all facets of Parisian society, the striations and hierarchies at play in the overlapping incestuous worlds of entertainment, media, money, art, sex, and so on, is difficult to envisage in any other way. Balzac’s novel is as much about the world in which the characters live as it is about the characters themselves. Presenting the plot without all of that background information would result in a soapy melodrama.

But it is Balzac who explains how this complex society works, and he does so from the stage itself, rather than from a front-row seat. This type of voiceover is a dangerous option, but it seems fitting here, especially given so many of the characters are writers.

Lucien (Benjamin Voisin) hails from a poor family. He lives in the country, works at a tiny printing press, and aspires to be a well-known author. His poem draws the aristocratic Louise de Bargeton (Cécile de France), a local woman. Even though she is married, the two have an affair, and she has so swept away that she takes Lucien to Paris and parades him around. Louise’s behavior generates a scandal, which is spearheaded by the Marquise d’Espard, Louise’s scary cousin (Jeanne Balibar). Louise succumbs to the strain and dumps Lucien like a hot potato. The boy was only in Paris for a few days before he was kicked out.

Journalist Etienne Lousteau (Vincent Lacoste) becomes his mentor, bringing him to work at one of the many opposition presses operating at the time and teaching him the ropes. Journalism is a shockingly rotten profession. Everything has a cost, and everything can be purchased. Lucien quickly picks up on the situation. Drawn into the demimonde, he meets Coralie (Salomé Dewaels), a lovely actress, and makes a frenemy in Nathan d’Anastazio (Xavier Dolan), a “genuine” writer who radiates a controlled glow of success and charisma wherever he goes.

Lucien is lusting after Nathan’s possessions. Nathan is what he aspires to be. There are even rumors that he simply wants Nathan. (After seeing Lucien for the first time, Coralie asks her buddy, “Are you sure he likes women?”)

Lost Illusions IMDb Review

One of the city’s major publishers, Dauriat (Gérard Depardieu), favors Nathan and scarcely gives Lucien a second thought. Lucien is well aware that he is squandering his talents by peddling “false news” to an undiscerning public. (If you’re looking for it, there are several ties to today’s media landscape.)


The film’s middle section—in which Lucien rises to the top of his new career as a voiceover explains what we’re seeing and why it matters—is a stunning piece of work, expertly executed by Giannoli, cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, and editor Cyril Nakache. Everything is frantic, thrilling, and joyful, with the camera hurtling through the streets, the backstage area of the theatre, and the audience.

The section never takes a breath, and it feels as if it’s all one piece, flowing together. Everything is explained in the voiceover. Knowing Lucien works for the opposition press isn’t enough. We also need to understand that society is tired of the Revolution and Napoleon’s one-two punch: people just want to relax, make money, and have fun.

Lost Illusions IMDb Review
Lost Illusions IMDb Review, Photo: filmlinc.org

Anti-royalist and opposition periodicals are all the rage, and the rivalry is severe. We learn about theatre and how it is compensated for reviews and even applause (and/or catcalls). “Here’s how this world works, let me guide you through it,” says Robert De Niro’s voiceover in “Casino.”

Overall, the cast is great, with Lacoste and Dolan standing out. When he likes you, Lacoste is a lot of fun, but when he is awakened as your opponent, he is lethal. Etienne is cold, ruthless, and corrupt, but corruption appeals to him because of his confident self-satisfied smirk. Xavier Dolan usually acts in the controversial films he directs, so it’s interesting to see him deliver a performance in a film directed by someone else.

He’s so restrained and in control, he’s aware of his own power, and he exudes ambiguous sexual energy, all of which makes him quite captivating to watch. Voisin’s journey from country bumpkin to city slicker to wrecked man is long and winding, and he is quite effective and well-cast.

Balzac refers to him as “a Greek deity” in the book, which is a not-so-subtle “code” for what was really going on. Balzac was a major effect on Oscar Wilde, who comprehended it. Although it’s apparent in the way Dolan plays his moments, the flickers of unspoken thoughts in his eyes as he stares attentively at Lucien’s face, this aspect of the plot isn’t really present. Dolan is a seducer and a flirt, and his whispered conversations with Lucien have a sexual overtone that must be deliberate. All of this may have been used in a more creative way.

Lucien’s demise is heartbreaking, but it was inevitable. It was coming, according to the voiceover. Everything leading up to it was unexpected. Yes, Lucien’s downfall is tragic, but Giannoli makes his ascension appear to be so much fun.

Select cinemas are now showing the film.

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