‘Lost Illusions’ – how great literature can make great entertainment

Posted on August 17, 2022
‘Lost Illusions’ – how great literature can make great entertainment
Picture provided

Honoré de Balzac wrote “La Comédie Humaine” during the first part of the 19th century in France. There, without any indulgence and with great acuity, he paints a changing world where capitalism emerges, where social classes intertwine in a great post-revolutionary maelstrom, where those who have the courage and not too many scruples can reap the fruits of a changing world order. It was an exciting time, it was a cruel time. It was the time of youth like Lucien de Rubempré, the hero of the film “Lost Illusions” presented on August 26 at the Orinda Theater for a week. The French film with English subtitles has all the ingredients of the novel and is supreme entertainment, with many elements of reflection on our times, because today’s human comedy can be played out on a different stage, but the characters are the same.

Rubempré is a romantic young man who dreams of becoming a published poet. He has the impression of vegetating in his small provincial town. His only gateway to the sophistication he craves is Madame de Bargeton, an aristocrat married to a wealthy but rustic old husband. She and Rubempré become lovers and when she escapes to Paris and her family, he follows suit. The young man is thrown unprepared into a complicated world where social codes escape him. Soon ousted by his boss, he must fend for himself and finds an outlet for his mind by writing for controversial liberal publications. The gifted young man soon chooses to master the rules of this world full of deception and manipulation and begins his own social ascent, at the expense of his conscience. But the enemies he made during his ascension will use his vanity to invoke his demise.

The era described here is that of the beginning of capitalism. Profit, forgery and pretense lead the dance. Industrialists and bankers are the rising power that will soon take over everything. Investments are made in the still legal and proliferating liberal publications, and financial corruption reigns. For the non-aristocratic and poor person who wants to succeed, compromise is the inevitable step.

Some actors in the Comédie Humaine are pure. Some are redeemed by true talent, or by love. Most will not survive and the naive ones will perish.

The actors interpreted in the main roles are delightful. The innocent, the rotten, the hypocrite, the just are perfectly represented. The cinematography is beautiful, the old Paris, the palaces, the miserable neighborhoods, the places of pleasure, the costumes, everything adds to the pleasure of the eyes that the film provides. It’s a long film, two and a half hours, but the pace is such and there’s so much going on that time flies by watching it. Long after the film ends, the characters in the story remain with the viewer. It is difficult to remain indifferent to this plunge into the roots of our capitalist world.

“Lost Illusions” will run at the Orinda Theater for one week beginning August 26, presented in Contra Costa County by the International Film Showcase, a Lamorinda nonprofit organization. Tickets to www.Orindamovies.com

Comments are closed.