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The Lost Illusions, Caesarian triumph of Xavier Giannoli


The adaptation by the director of the eponymous novel by Balzac won seven awards at the César 2022. The plebiscite of a romantic cinema.

The filmmaker of lost illusions has become, over the course of his filmography, a filmmaker of illusion. His triumph at the 47and edition of the Caesars, on the other hand, is not a mirage. Winner of the César for best film on Friday evening and six other awards, Xavier Giannoli’s latest feature film, an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Honoré de Balzac, is the director’s most accomplished creation, after thirty years of career.

Since when i was a singer (2006) via Originally (2009), Daisy (2015) or even The Appearance (2018), Xavier Giannoli explores, as a literary and thoughtful director, the mechanisms of imposture and beliefs. So much so that in reality most of his films, although all singular, could have been called The Lost Illusions, the title of his eighth feature film. This Balzacian adaptation that he had been considering since he was 19, was the favorite of the César 2022, with 15 nominations. His film finally received no less than seven statuettes, including those for best actor in a supporting role for Vincent Lacoste and best male hope for Benjamin Voisin.

From Rubempre to Scorsese

Success recalls the ambitious drunkenness that carries the main character of Balzac’s classic. Its hero, Lucien de Rubempré, is a little poet from Angoulême who has gone to Paris to seek glory. Having become a journalist, the disillusioned young man evolves in a world of the press plagued by lies and pretense, until an epilogue for which Xavier Giannoli pinpointed this sentence, taken from Balzac’s correspondence: “I think of those who must find something within themselves after disenchantment”.

“This sentence haunts me and upsets mehe told the Figaro. I feel like it sums up the story of our lives.” Thus, Rubempré could well be the brother of Alain, the aging ball singer played by Gérard Depardieu in when i was a singer ; or the brother of Philippe, the impostor swindler played by François Cluzet in Originally ; the brother of the singer with the rattling voice played by Catherine Frot in Daisy or even the brother of Anna, the young girl who saw the Virgin in The Appearance . “This history of beliefs is linked to my very progressive and at the same time Christian upbringing, explained the director on France Inter. All my characters have a desire for elevation, for beauty, but at the same time they are nailed to the ground by their condition as human beings, their bodies (…) the world as it goes”.

Cinema is the art of illusion par excellence. (..) I believe that romance and illusion teach us about reality at least as much as an investigation.

Xavier Giannoli, during the release of L’Apparition, in 2018

“Tumultuous Christian”, Xavier Giannoli was born into a bourgeois family: he is the son of Paul Giannoli – a journalist who notably directed the JDD and Télé Star – and the grandson of Roger Frey, De Gaulle’s Interior Minister. A former altar boy, it was thanks to the singer Christophe, the neighbor of the family apartment on Boulevard Flandrin, that he discovered the cinema. “With him, I entered a magical and transgressive universe, of jukeboxes and film, in a setting of black sofas and lamps. You never knew if it was day or night.” remembered the director.

After the baccalaureate, he enrolled in letters at the Sorbonne because the university “was surrounded by cinemas”, then this passionate Maurice Pialat makes short films with film scraps. Until obtaining the Palme d’Or with The Interview. Chance of life, it was his other master Martin Scorsese who gave him this distinction in 1998. With little money, he made his first feature film in 2003, The impatient bodiesa story of love and death in which Laura Smet embodies her companion at the time, kidnapped at the age of 20 by cancer. “During the ten years that followed, my life was organized around this drama”.

In 2005, An adventure make an oven. It bounces back a year later with when i was a singer. His work therefore becomes that of“a filmmaker inhabited by a desire for human truth”he explained in the notes of intent to The Appearance. “Cinema is the art of illusion par excellence”he admitted recently. At the same time, I believe that romance and illusion teach us about reality at least as much as an investigation. We surely approach the complexity of life more through the romantic or cinematographic illusion“.

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