Lupin!

Even though I am working through a backlog of shows/films on my watchlist, I am still constantly perusing Netflix for the next thing to watch. I do have a fondness for interesting foreign shows so when my sister suggested I watch LUPIN, a new French crime thriller, I said pourquoi pas? and immediately went to watch it.

Lupin is a Netflix original which follows the adventures of Assane Diop, the French son of a Senegalese immigrant, in his quest to avenge an injustice meted out to his father by his wealthy employers. Assane is inspired by Arsene Lupin, a fictional character who is apparently France’s answer to James Bond meets Sherlock Holmes. The show opens with Assane’s plan to steal Marie Antoinette’s necklace during an auction at the Louvre. This plan is outlandish enough and I assumed that is what the whole show would be about (a la Money Heist) but that is just one of the many rungs in his ladder of revenge (whatever this means).

If I had to sum up Lupin in one word, it is “unrealistic“. Arsene Lupin is described as a gentleman thief and master of disguise and Assane is portrayed as the same. Assane Diop is a 6’2 (at least), well built Black Frenchman with strong prominent features; this is not a bland man that blends into the crowd, rather he stands out anywhere, possibly even in Senegal but I assume especially in France. So presenting him as a master of disguise was frankly unrealistic, but that is what the show keeps telling us. His disguise mostly consisted of him removing his suit and putting on glasses which for some reason had the entire police force stumped. It reminds me of playing peekaboo with a child, and the child thinks you have disappeared simply because you covered your face. The chief police office, who saw Assane up close at the Louvre and shook hands with him, now doesn’t recognise him because he is wearing a beanie. Ridiculous. The stunts are also childish and meant for an age pre DNA, security cameras, and social media, which is when the books were written. All in all, there are plot-holes and everything is set up for Assane to succeed.

I also have a problem with shows in which a person is presented as the best at something, but the viewer is always been told this rather than being shown. There was a point in the show where Assane has enough evidence to destroy the family but rather than just release it he decides to play a silly game which of course doesn’t end well. It reminds me of that silly show Revenge in which the main character had a suitcase of evidence to exonerate her father with but instead spent the whole season doing nonsense. Just get it over with.

However once the viewer had suspended their belief to an extent, and accepted a degree of implausibility, the show becomes quite enjoyable to watch. It has been quite successful globally, and is the first French show to enter the US top ten (I think it even went to number one). A lot of people love it and don’t have my reservations, so this may just be a personal thing. Some people have complained about how bad the English dub is, but I watched it in French with subtitles on which is how I watch my shows and thankfully my Netflix automatically does this.

Another slight issue I have with the show is the diversity. Assane Diop is the main character, and apart from another Black man who appears towards the end, he is the only Black person. Now I find this weird. Sure, his parents immigrated from Senegal and are both dead, but is it really realistic that this Black first generation French man does not have any other Black people close to him? It’s like he was just dropped into this world, and I wonder if that is possible. A lot of these things are written by White people for White people and that is perfectly fine. It seems in the quest to appear diverse, they end up creating somewhat unrealistic worlds (to me anyway). I once saw a west end stage production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and one of the brothers was played by a Black actor. The actor’s race was not relevant to the script and did nothing to take away from the play; there was a character and it just happened to be played by a man who is Black. However a core part of Lupin is the racial aspect, and race is referred to multiple times throughout the show so this isn’t a case of oh we just happened to cast a Black man for the lead. I see the same thing on TV when diversity is simply ensuring every commercial has an interracial couple. It is comical.

At the moment there are just five 45 minute episodes on Netflix, and this was part of what made me watch it as I thought it was something I could watch in one go. It actually took me a week and I was disappointed to find out that that was just the first drop. There are more episodes and more seasons coming out, and I will be watching them. I will also be checking out the lead actor Omar Sy in some of his other notable projects, starting with Intouchables which won him a Cesar (French version of the Oscars).

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