Classical, new and skillful presentation make spoken english optional
Omar Sy plays Assane Diop in ‘Lupin’, a limited Netflix series that has become a somewhat unexpected hit. While there have been some successful streaming hits with original French production and english sub-titles, this time it’s not an impediment but a feature.
This observation – that a challenge to read rather than only hear the shows, is followed by many more pleasant and highly satisfying surprises, as the viewer is pulled into the larger story. (some may have dubbed english available, but subtitles provide the meaning without forsaking the nuance of the original acting performances)
The first French language series to hit #1 on the platform, the Netflix original series, produced by Gaumont and created by George Kay, in collaboration with François Uzan, was viewed by over 70 million households, in estimates, during its first month.
The title gives away the first layer of the story – that it is based on the main character’s obsession with the Arsène Lupin novels by Maurice Leblanc, which began after Assane Diop, played by Omar Sy, received one of the novels as a gift from his father, (Fargass Assandé), for his birthday.
The depth of Assane’s lifelong obsession with Arsène Lupin, and the degree to which it gave him a purpose in life, a unique identity and more, is the base fabric and foundation of the tale.
The basic concept is that the impressionable, highly intelligent boy, transforms himself into “Lupin, gentleman thief” all with no more than intense, diligent and concentrated study of the book(s).
A harmony of elements…
But the way that it is told – with various flashbacks to Assane’s formative teen years, contrasted with the “today” narrative and then interspersed with various time-frames to emphasize moments in the long journey of his life, is where the story leaps off the screen.
The fact that his ex-wife, Claire (Ludivine Sagnier) with whom he has a son, Raoul (Etan Simon), around the age, Assane, himself, was when he was gifted the book that changed his life, and she was a big part his life ever since he was a teenager, makes for a circular story that has a ring of truth and yet the beauty of a dream.
The casting – Sy’s ability to portray the character at various ages, along with the teenage versions of both Assane and Claire makes the flashbacks extremely satisfying, like films within the film, Mamadou Haidara as Young Assane and Ludmilla Makowski as Young Claire are particularly well cast and play off each other with delicious chemistry.
The sparing use of technology, in the portrayal of the heist scenes, which gradually changes with each episode, give the modern setting a classical feeling that is entirely appropriate and a nice touch, as so many modern dramas fumble with the task of how to portray cell phone addiction and social media without either oversimplification or over use as a screen device.
From acting performances to the casting, scene realization and more, all intertwine with elegance, much like a Lupin novel
The story builds with each episode and the fifth and final installment of part one, ends on a cliffhanger, as is expected, but the various threads of the story each have the feeling of only having begun to bear fruit, leading to even more lust for a continuation.
Fortunately, Netflix has already finished production on the second batch and the release has been confirmed for later in 2021.
Any who enjoyed and absorbed the first part of the series, up until the dangling final moments, will only have to wait months, not years for the conclusion, or at least the continuation of the saga. Stay tuned.
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