Cécile de France: “We like to dress up and have fun like children”

The actress Cécile de France was recently at the Zurich Film Festival to defend ‘”Lost Illusions”, a film adapted from Balzac’s river story. This historical drama unfolds the disillusioned fate of Lucien de Rubempré, a provincial who moved to Paris to become a writer.

Lucien de Rubempré (formidable Benjamin Voisin) is a young poet unknown in 19th century France. He has high hopes and wants to forge a destiny. He left the family printing press in his native province to try his luck in Paris on the arm of his protectress, Louise de Bargeton (Cécile de France). Soon delivered to himself in the fabulous city, the young man will discover the backstage of a world doomed to the law of profit and pretense.

“Lost Illusions”, a tale in the form of a triptych, was considered by Balzac as a major element of his great work, “The Human Comedy”. Inspired to the writer by his own experience in the field of printing, the book recounts the greatness and glory of his hero before his downfall.

Capitalism, unscrupulous journalists, traitors and mercantilism are strong ingredients of the story that has nothing to envy of the contemporary era. “Balzac was a visionary,” Cécile de France told RTS at the Zurich Film Festival. In fact, social networks are just missing to embody 2021. “But even at the time, we listened to the one who spoke the loudest,” adds Benjamin Voisin, who plays a very convincing Lucien de Rubempré.

The director of the film, Xavier Giannoli (“When I was a singer”, “Marguerite”), shot as close as possible to the places where the story took place as Balzac wrote it. And it feels. The meticulous and personalized costumes down to the smallest detail, the redeveloped streets of Paris in the 1920s, the theaters recreated from scratch, everything contributes to making the film a success in terms of aesthetics and restoring the atmosphere of the time. “We, the actors, are like children. We like to dress up and have fun. During the filming, everything was very probable and it was magical, we were amazed and that obviously helped us to play our characters”, explains Cecile from France.

An initiatory journey

The film was shot in 2019, long before the coronavirus pandemic. “I was lucky to be able to be present on the set every day. It was an extraordinary pleasure to see all these people around me passionate about this project,” says Benjamin Voisin. An initiatory journey from purity to degradation, Xavier Giannoli’s film magnifies its actors, whom he loves passionately. “He seeks beauty in each of us, despite the darkness of the film,” continues Cécile de France.

“Lost Illusions” is served by a five-star cast: Gérard Depardieu, Xavier Dolan, Jeanne Balibar, Vincent Lacoste, the late Jean-François Stévenin and Louis-Do de Lencquesaing appear on the film poster. “Being surrounded by such a band is a great gift for life”, concludes Benjamin Voisin.

Interview by Pierre Philippe Cadert

Web adaptation: Melissa Härtel

“Lost Illusions”, by Xavier Giannoli, to be discovered from October 20 on French-speaking screens.

Film Review: My Donkey, My Lover & I

Antoinette, a school teacher, is looking forward to her long planned summer holidays with her secret lover Vladimir, one of her pupils’ father. When she learns that Vladimir cannot come because his wife organized a surprise trekking in the Cévennes National Park with their daughter and a donkey to carry their load, Antoinette decides to follow their track, by herself, with her own stubborn donkey.

A very beautiful film, both funny and touching, which makes you want to return to France and go hiking in the Cévennes and carrying in its suitcase “Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes” by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Antoinette, a Parisian schoolteacher, has an extra-marital relationship with Vladimir, the father of one of her students. The latter abandons him for the summer holidays to go hiking in the Cévennes with his wife and daughter. Neither one nor two, Antoinette also decides to make “the way of Stevenson” accompanied by Patrick, a recalcitrant donkey. If the beginnings are more than laborious, a beautiful relationship is established between the two protagonists and Patrick even comes to guide Antoinette in her love choices. Laure Calamy, always just as fair, finds the perfect tone and does not give in to cliché or caricature

Le Petit Journal

Review: ‘Our Struggles’ (Nos Batailles)’

Romain Duris is the factory worker struggling to balance his responsibilities

Dir: Guillaume Senez. Belgium-France. 2018. 98mins

Available on Amazon

A hardworking husband and father with solid social convictions and major responsibilities on the floor of a gargantuan dispatching warehouse in provincial France is obliged to recalibrate every corner of his life after an abrupt change at home in Our Struggles (Nos Batailles).

Co-writer/director Guillaume Senez stakes a legitimate claim to his chosen narrative territory

A thoughtfully structured indictment of the creeping precariousness of steady work and exploration of the balancing act of a man suddenly left entirely in charge of his two young children, this modest but convincing film benefits from a fine ensemble cast and a committed central performance by Romain Duris.

Trendy articles praise the concept of “disruption” and bow down before the supposed value that “disruptors” lend to the marketplace, but most people probably have a soft spot for stability in their work and home lives. One such man, Olivier (Duris), is about to get thrown for a loop he could definitely have done without.

There’s not an overabundance of “human” qualities in Agathe (Sarah Le Picard) from Human Resources when she tells Olivier that one of the older workers under his supervision can’t keep up the pace anymore. Olivier defends the man in question, but the employee’s contract isn’t renewed and bad things result. Continue reading “Review: ‘Our Struggles’ (Nos Batailles)’”

Film Review: “My Donkey, My Lover and I”


Laure Calamy and Patrick the donkey steal the show in Caroline Vignal’s funny and original comedy, a work awarded the Cannes Official Selection Label and which is soon to hit cinemas in France

“It this your donkey? Is he giving you a hard time? It’s the same for everyone, you have to learn to get along.” When, on a romantic whim, the protagonist of Caroline Vignal’s My Donkey, My Lover and I – awarded the 73rd Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection Label and distributed in French cinemas by Diaphana from 16 September – decides to embark on a trek for which she is in no way prepared, she has no idea that she’s simultaneously triggering an epic countdown which will lead to her own self-discovery. It’s an initiatory journey set to the tune of a romantic comedy and against vast, magnificent landscapes, but it’s also a hilarious “buddy movie” which unites a woman and a donkey, paints a moving portrait and magnifies the virtues of stripping back to the essentials and getting back to nature (without concealing the complications such a process involves).

“Et je sens la fièvre qui me mord”. Just like in Véronique Sanson’s song Amoureuse, which teacher Antoinette (Laure Calamy) performs, ablaze, before an audience of disconcerted parents at the school’s end of year celebration, our protagonist is in full emotional and sensual bloom, owing to her secret affair with Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe), the father of one of her Year 5 students. But their plans for a week of freedom in Paris are brutally upended: Vladimir, his wife (Olivia Côte) and their daughter have changed plans and are now trotting off into the Cévennes region to embark on a hike with a donkey. But never mind! Impulsive Antoinette sets off on their trail (without telling anyone) and on the path walked and described in 1879 by Scottish writer Robert-Louis Stevenson in Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes… On the itinerary are six stages of roughly twenty kilometres a day, with nightly stopovers scheduled in gites with all their communal meals and shared dorms.

Suffice to say, Antoinette causes an immediate stir among the seasoned hikers, especially after swiftly confessing the sentimental reason behind her trip. Her fame grows as the days pass and as the exhausting (but also cruelly funny) hardships mount up behind her, starting with the need to make her partner – the donkey, Patrick – advance. But what will happen if Antoinette’s wish to cross paths with Vladimir (encumbered by his young family) actually comes true?

Carried by the sensational Laure Calamy, who is wonderful in her delivery of a comic-come-pathetic performance whilst also offering up a moving display of bravery in adversity, the film paints a very beautiful portrait of a woman through the mirror of the unexpected bond she slowly forges with Patrick; one which starts off strained given the animal’s contrary nature, but which sees them gradually grow accustomed to one another (with Antoinette telling him a bit about her life, notably her “gift for falling in love with the worst possible guy, at the worst possible time, in the worst possible place”). Together they form a duo which raises a lot of laughs, gracing a storyline which proceeds at the soothing pace of the walk and of the unexpected encounters they experience amidst nigh-on desert-like, breath-taking panoramas. It’s an ideal setting for re-centring oneself and for a feature film as charming as this one.

Source: Review: My Donkey, My Lover and I

‘Cuties’ review: Despite Netflix bungling, it’s worth seeing

Film Cuties

Maïmouna Doucouré’s prize-winning directorial debut is a smart, empathetic coming-of-age drama.

Early on in “Cuties,” Amy (Fathia Youssouf), an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant living in Paris, hides under a bed and eavesdrops while her mother, Mariam (Maïmouna Gueye), makes a few difficult phone calls. Her husband has decided to marry a second wife, she tells her friends; yes, isn’t that wonderful news? Amy, from her partially obscured vantage, can’t see her mom’s tears, though she can hear the barely disguised anguish in her voice. At the same time, she has perhaps never seen Mariam more clearly, a woman whose long-suffering heart and tough exterior are finally on the verge of breaking. Continue reading “‘Cuties’ review: Despite Netflix bungling, it’s worth seeing”

Film Review: “Summer of 85”

François Ozon revisits the romantic passions of adolescence with the accuracy and great rawness of emotion that are characteristic of his mature and masterful filmmaking approach

The exaggerated nature of desires and feelings, the sky-high intensity of the moment such that every single second assumes timeless dimensions, the clash of contradictory emotions, the shared secrets and pacts, the search for the other as a mirror of love, flirtation with risk and the electrified zone where Eros and Thanatos intermix, all set against the most banal daily life imaginable, composed of parents, high school, holidays and hesitant plans for the future. Adolescence is the age of plunging into the unknown, of nebulous transitions, of instinctive joy and deep, deep suffering; a time for romanticism par excellence Continue reading “Film Review: “Summer of 85””