Reaping top awards at the 2022 Césars, this majestic, lavish fresco adapted from Balzac’s masterpiece paints a cruel portrait of 19th century Parisian society and the burgeoning world of the press, which has startling contemporary overtones.
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Lucien, an idealistic young poet, harbours ambitions reaching well beyond the borders of provincial France and his family’s small printing business. Stirred by the attentions, both financial and sexual, of a wealthy patron, Louise de Bargeton, he soon finds himself catapulted into the dizzying bustle of Paris. Here his great expectations and brazen social climbing clash with reality: poetry falls by the wayside as the parvenu swiftly learns to peddle his prose to the highest bidder; he will love, suffer and survive his illusions. — Sandra Reid
“This sweeping period drama may be up to its eyeballs in costumes and carriages, but it plays with all the brio and jeopardy of a modern-day gangster movie, featuring hack journalists as its antiheroes… Turns out, there’s nothing new about fake news, and it may shock today’s audiences to learn just how powerful – and how corrupt – the media was two centuries ago this year. Balzac set the tale in 1821, just as printing presses were making it possible to mass-produce misinformation, and sell-out artistes set aside their dreams of writing great literature and settled for influence instead… A sumptuous and surprisingly au courant cinematic retelling.” — Peter Debruge, Variety