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December 4, 2019

Non-Fiction (2019)
Director: Olivier Assayas
Actors: Guillaume Canet, Vincent Macaigne, Juliette Binoche

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Synopsis: Alain (Guillaume Canet) and Léonard (Vincent Macaigne) are, respectively, a publisher and writer both struggling with the demands of the digital age. Alain is finding his publishing company accelerating into electronic forms of media, while Léonard is struggling to get his latest novel published by Alain, on top of managing his complicated personal life.

Review: Olivier Assayas can’t quite go ‘three for three’ with this, his latest attempt to shine a light on a creative industry’s travails with an increasingly modernised, digital world. After the actors of Clouds of Sils Maria and the fashionistas of Personal Shopper, the focus here is on the movers and shakers of an illustrious Parisian publishing house and its tentative steps into the digital market.

While the focus on the politics of the publishing house and how the written word is having its most dramatic shake-up in centuries is engrossing, the personal dramas around that canvas are a touch insipid. At times it felt like a parody of bourgeois French cinema – there are innumerable sequences of characters pontificating, eating, drinking wine, and hopping in and out of bed with each other – and the focus on the comically transparent autofictions of the hapless writer, Léonard, mimicked classic Woody Allen.

Probably the most successful element of the film’s musings on the ironic interface of an old industry with the new technological age is in a late scene where Léonard is asked about whether his new novel can have significant mileage in the new audiobook market. Juliette Binoche’s character, Selena, is asked if she thinks it would be a good idea if Juliette Binoche, the world famous actress, might be worth approaching for this endeavour. It’s the sort of telling postmodern conceit Assayas used to much greater effect in Clouds of Sils Maria, but here it only serves to highlight the relative sterility of the rest of this film’s rhetorical gesturing. (December 2019)

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