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.
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.
“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