The Hit TV Series Lupin: Arsène Lupin Then and Now

The Hit TV Series Lupin: Arsène Lupin Then and Now
Since travel is constricted during the pandemic, virtual views of France—Paris in particular—have taken international TV by storm. Emily in Paris, Dix Per Cent (Call My Agent), and perhaps the best and most interesting, Lupin. It’s impressive that the series about a thief named Arsène Lupin has become extraordinarily popular, even though it’s in French, and has not been remade or otherwise adapted to the global audience. Who is Arsène Lupin? He’s one of the oldest iconic figures in French popular literature (as well other art forms: cinema, the stage, television, even a video game). He was first featured in a series of adventure novellas written in the early 1900s by Maurice Leblanc. He was (as the show also mentions) a “gentleman thief.” He’s in the Robin Hood tradition of the man on the wrong side of the law who’s actually the good guy. There are French equivalents in 19th century literature, like The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables. A more apt equivalent lies in the lighter caper films of Hollywood, like Jules Dassin’s Topkapi and To Catch a Thief, starring Cary Grant. (Robert Wagner starred in a TV takeoff, It Takes A Thief in the 1960s). The thief uses street smarts and charm to access the Establishment’s booty, and just as much to ruffle its feathers. In other words, the “gentleman thief” is a modern twist on the mythical Trickster.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Let’s reading 🪐 (@_.booklist._) The particularity of the latest iteration of Lupin is that he’s black, played by the Senegalese-Frenchman Omar Sy. To the French public, Sy is a mostly comic superstar (he began as part of a stand-up comedy team, Omar and Fred, and has starred in some of France’s top-grossing films), so taking on the role of Arsène Lupin (his real name in the series is Assane Diop) was as natural as Eddy Murphy doing a star turn in an American equivalent. Still, a black Lupin gives us the enjoyable frisson of watching the underdog turn conventional society upside down—the worm turning. In the first episode he steals a necklace once owned by Marie Antoinette, set to be auctioned off by a corrupt upper-class family that acquired it illicitly. We can’t help but react with Yesssssss! Technically, the series is a marvel. Unlike Emily in Paris, with its cheesy sitcom aesthetic, Lupin seems like it was made for the big screen (remember those?). The directors (Louis Leterrier and Marcela Said) seem to have modeled their style and technique on the heist movies of Steven Soderbergh. The shots of Paris are impressive rather than merely picture-postcardy, and the overall style has genuine flair. Not only Omar Sy, but the supporting cast is always believable, whether amusing or moving. Ludovine Sagnier as Assane’s ex-wife is especially affecting, as is Mamadou Haidara as Assane as a young boy.

Lead photo credit : The series, a worldwide phenomenon, led by Omar Sy, which has been Number 1 in Netflix’s Top 10 across more than ten countries, will return in Summer 2021. The 5 new episodes are directed by Ludovic Bernard (The Climb) and Hugo Gélin (Love at second sight). Lupin, Netflix. Photo credit © Netflix, press release.

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.