“Lost Illusions”, a human comedy so up to date

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(AFP) – The tyranny of influencers, the power of finance, the poison of rumor: two centuries later, Honoré de Balzac remains totally “modern”, testifies Xavier Giannoli, who signs an adaptation of “Lost Illusions”.

This film will be released next Wednesday, three weeks after another Balzac adaptation, “Eugénie Grandet”, by Marc Dugain. And a sign of the times, “Lost Illusions” is also the subject of an adaptation for the theater, by the director Pauline Bayle, on tour in France until the summer.

“Balzac understood everything. That modern society would be a bitter struggle and everything would be economic, that money would be the new code. He described the matrix of the modern world in which we still find ourselves,” said the director Xavier Giannoli to AFP, during a meeting in Venice, where his film was presented.

On the screen, the young Lucien de Rubempré is played by Benjamin Voisin, discovered in “Summer 32” by François Ozon and who finds his first major role in the skin of this young provincial enamored of literature, mounted in Paris where his dreams will be shattered on the reality of society at the time of the Restoration.

“Everything is modern! It’s absolutely crazy, me, it was necessary that I am told that it was in 85 and not in 2020, tellem ent that has a resonance, an echo on the world of today “, adds the actor, who admits to not having” read Balzac at school “.

– “So visionary” –

“Balzac put such a level, he’s so visionary. He even has a head start and I think he still has some. It is in fifty or a hundred years that we will understand to what extent he was right about profit and the lure of profit “, he adds.

To his sides, Cécile de France embodies Louise de Bargeton, a nobleman with whom he falls in love, Vincent Lacoste is Etienne Lousteau, his mentor in journalism, and Xavier Dolan, his rival in the letters Raoul Nathan … Gérard Depardieu melts when in him in the clothes of the publisher Dauriat.

With a classic style, neat period sets and costumes, the film which has chosen to focus more precisely on the Lucien’s rise in a world of the press and the totally corrupt media resonates with contemporary debates. directors pay extras to applaud a show, advertisers and shareholders pull the strings.

“We understand that everything is sold and everything is bought: reputation, l ‘love, the body “, continues Xavier Giannoli.

The filmmaker is far from being the first to draw inspiration from Balzac, an unparalleled painter of the customs of his time. The author of “La Comédie humaine” has always influenced filmmakers: “Le Père Goriot”, “Le Lys dans la Vallée” or “Le Colonel Chabert” have undergone several adaptations on the small and big screen.

“The Unknown Masterpiece”, for its part, provided the raw material for one of Michel Piccoli’s most beautiful roles, as a painter seeking inspiration in front of Emmanuelle Béart in “La Belle Noiseuse “by Jacques Rivette in 1991.

For Giannoli,” Lost illusions “is” obsession ” of a lifetime, a project matured since he read it at 20 years and “laughed so much, learned so much about life and survival in this world “.

” Adapting a 19th century novel to the time of Twitter and Instagram is very important “, underlines Xavier Giannoli for whom Balzac asks a question more relevant than ever: “Basically, is it possible in this crazy world to keep the taste for beauty?”

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