Balzac is remembered, but with a smile.I look forward to experiencing the exciting and swirling adaptation “Lost Illusions” of Xavier Giannoli in the cinema (in theatres October 20).There is also the unsettling pleasure of seeing the critics and press rolling in the mud in the flour. Clever, the director adapts here the second, satirical and longer part of the novel, “A great provincial man in Paris”.
Lucien Chardon, alias of Rubempré (advantageous particle borrowed from his mother), a poet from Angoulême embodied by Benjamin Voisin, came to make a name for himself in the capital. To accelerate his success, he chooses journalism and quickly adapts to what he finds: a corrupt media, lacking faith or law, plagued with advertising, covered in canards (which we called “ducks” back then), and sold to the highest bidder. Everything is bought and bribed. A flattering paper on a book is paid in cash or in kind (to see his bad poems appear, Rubempré must praise a work published by his publisher, played by Gérard Depardieu). The editors may not know what to make of a work. An alcoholic monkey can help them decide which works will be praised and which ones will be executed.
For a show, it’s double trouble: the theater must water not only the criticism, but also the slap, orchestrated on the screen by Jean-François Stévenin, of which it was the last role, and the most venal. Like Giannoli, Balzac’s money, which is an instrument for cynicism or vanity, has the upper hand. He has the upper hand over cultural tastes and political ideas. He can be trusted with all his heart. To those who would suspect Xavier Giannoli and his formidable troop (Xavier Dolan, Vincent Lacoste, Cécile de France, André Marcon, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Jeanne Balibar …) of having drawn too much towards our time of « fake news » this Restoration novel, I recommend rereading “Lost Illusions”. They will be delighted.
Balzac is the one who writes: “Journalism is hell, an abyss of iniquities, lies, betrayals”, “criticism is a brush that cannot be used on light fabrics, where it would take everything”, “We are merchants of sentences and live from our business »(sentence launched and repeated by Vernou, journalist). “The more beautiful the book, the less likely it is to be sold. “But, we hope this beautiful film will be a success.
Published in L’OBS, October 14, 2021.