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LOST ILLUSIONS gets 7/10 Paid praise


Directed by Xavier Giannoli

Starring Benjamin Voisin, Cécile de France, Vincent Lacoste, Xavier Dolan, Gérard Depardieu

7/10

Adapted from the 1843 novel, Lost Illusions is a tale that exposes the symbiotic relationship journalists/critics and artists have, working together to get their way, despite corrupting the faith readers have in them.

The young Lucien Chardon (Benjamin Voisin) is a worker at a printing press, though his ambition in life is to be a poet. He is taken in by an aristocrat family, impressed by his poetry, particularly the smitten Louise de Bargeton (Cécile de France). From there, he finds himself in the city, now working for a journal, led by editor Étienne Lousteau (Vincent Lacoste), mostly doing theatre and literature criticism. But as we see through his encounters with theatre folk, authors, publishers, and other supposed aesthetes, he sees the cunning nature of his work, where good reviews can be bought, as can bad reviews.

This comes across as a coy, but amusingly told tale that highlights the mechanics of journalism and criticism, exposing in quite a bit of detail how these critics and these journalists can be bribed by the theatre companies, using ‘claques’ (audience members who have been paid to applaud – or throw rotten vegetables).

There’s plenty of time in this 150 minute film to delve into the corruption of all this. Yet the film does come across as overlong and sometimes tediously boring, with moments seemingly to reiterate the nature of how reviews and criticism works. All of this is housed in a lot of pretty good and engaging production design to bring you into this setting, though the murky lighting can feel off-putting and disengaging.

All of which leads to a despondent ending that contains a rather clever throwback. The film’s satire may seem razor sharp, but it comes across sensitively, never removing the humanity of any of the characters or the particular situations they end up in, no matter how unethical. It’s what makes this otherwise dull film an interesting watch, seeing how it portrays, without judgement, this kind of scandal in journalism.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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