Netflix’s immensely profitable new French-language present Lupin has launched a brand new technology of anglophone viewers to probably the most fashionable characters in French fashionable fiction, Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief.
Lupin was created in 1905 by the author Maurice Leblanc on the behest of writer Pierre Lafitte, who had lately launched a normal curiosity journal, Je Sais Tout. Lafitte wished a serial that may assure a loyal readership for his journal, because the Sherlock Holmes tales had for the Strand Journal. Drawing inspiration from Conan Doyle and EW Hornung’s Raffles tales, Leblanc obliged by making a flamboyant and finally at all times benign trickster determine.
Cat burglar, con artist, grasp of disguise, Lupin can be an excellent detective and righter of wrongs. His attraction has proved enduring: along with the unique 20 volumes of tales authored by Leblanc, there have been numerous performs, radio reveals, TV sequence and movies, from Italian pornos to a Japanese manga franchise. He has been incarnated by John Barrymore, Georges Descrières, and Romain Duris, all with signature topper and monocle. Now he’s being performed by Omar Sy, sporting a extra modish, however equally dashing, flat cap and trench coat ensemble. Probably the most watched foreign-language sequence but on Netflix, this reboot reveals a deep and honest appreciation of the unique whereas bringing to it an consciousness of latest social issues.
A comfortable caper with simply sufficient edge
Omar Sy performs Assane Diop, a grifter and thief who kinds himself on Lupin. Diop is on a lifelong mission to clear the title of his father, who dedicated suicide in jail 25 years in the past after being unjustly accused of the theft of a diamond necklace.
Though daring and intelligent in some ways, Diop’s seek for justice solely ever lands him in gentle peril. Nonetheless, though the viewers can typically guess how issues will prove – broadly talking, fortunately – there are sufficient twists and turns alongside the best way to maintain us entertained. Like a lot good fashionable fiction, due to this fact, Lupin presents a mix of familiarity and novelty, nowhere extra so than in its illustration of Paris.
The unique tales have been at all times closely invested in a sure excellent of Frenchness – charming, gallant, insouciant. And the present actually caters to worldwide audiences’ seemingly insatiable urge for food for photographs of Parisian sophistication. Right here is the Louvre, there the Sacré-Cœur. Listed below are Louis XIII buildings and Louis XV interiors. Chanel jackets and croissants dunked in café au lait. However right here too are crumbling council estates and dilapidated prisons, social disaffection and systemic racist discrimination.
Within the second episode, Diop, briefly incarcerated (voluntarily, it’s all a part of his plan), is shanked by a fellow prisoner (once more, a part of the plan). There’s a shot of the discarded shiv, a bloodied blade with a white deal with, the decrease portion wrapped in blue tape. It unmistakably and unexpectedly brings to thoughts the French tricolore. Stabbed by a middle-eastern man, this poignant visible factors to a marginalised France, the France of the banlieues (the working-class areas that encircle French cities), the place violence and criminality are born of disaffection.
A thief with a social conscience
On the whole, although, the sequence wears its social acutely aware extra evenly.
There’s a scrumptious second the place Diop, masquerading as a police officer, swindles a racist girl nostalgic for empire out of the jewels her husband purchased her with cash made within the Belgian Congo, again in “the nice outdated days”. “To the reminiscence of the Belgian Congo,” smiles Diop as he accepts the booty. It’s the form of Robin Hood gesture, redistribution via theft, that was promoted by French anarchists within the early twentieth century. Most notably by the burglar Marius Jacob, one of many inspirations for Lupin. There’s a superadded irony, since Leblanc’s unique tales are themselves steeped in colonialist ideology.
If within the 1900s Arsène Lupin used an opera cape as an invisibility cloak, a marker of respectability repelling all suspicion. Diop, nevertheless, depends on a high-vis jacket to do the identical job, highlighting how the low-paid, largely immigrant workforce whose labour retains the trendy metropolis working goes largely unnoticed by those that rely on it . Exploiting this, he can parlay a job as a cleaner on the Louvre right into a multi-million-euro heist.
Probably the most hanging means during which Lupin departs from its supply materials is in its concentrate on Diop as a father – a loving however barely too absent and unreliable one. Within the first episode we see him meet together with his exasperated ex, Claire, promising that he’s going to vary. Over the course of the 5 episodes presently out there, we see him wrestle to maintain that promise. On this, Lupin refuses to bolster the fantasy of easy reinvention represented by the eponymous character. Altering identification shouldn’t be simple for Diop as his actuality, his household, at all times calls him again and forces painful emotional progress. In drawing on the attraction of the character while acknowledging the bounds, even risks, of fantasies of omnipotence, it appears to me that Lupin has its cake and eats it – which is, in any case, the purpose.
Emma Bielecki doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.