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Television

Review of Netflix’s new French language series “Lupin” starring Omar Sy

Produced by Gaumont Television and released on Netflix, “Lupin” was quickly amongst “the top 10 most watched” in many countries when it was released on January 8. This is an unprecedented feat for a french-language show. It reached the number 1 spot in Canada, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, and was even the first French series ever, to enter the Top 10 list in the United States. It eventually reached the number one spot, until it was dethroned in the U.S, the U.K and Australia by Bridgerton. The show stars César award winner Omar Sy. He plays a sly, debonair thief, inspired by fictional “gentleman thief” Arsène Lupin, who’s out to seek justice and avenge his father. The show has received an impressive 93% rating on Rotten tomatoes and critics are already saying that “Season 2 cannot come soon enough”.

At first glance, one could assume the show will feature Arsène Lupin himself, but the show’s protagonist is Assane Diop (played by Omar Sy) who’s a devoted fan of the fictitious thief. Diop is the son of a Senegalese immigrant in Paris who was framed for robbery by the wealthy family that employed him as a driver when Assane was just a teenager. His father is coerced into signing a fake confession, and is subsequently so ashamed that he commits suicide in his prison cell. Before his father passes away, Assane is given his first ever “Lupin” novel, and is quickly enamoured by the gentleman burglar. He then uses Lupin as inspiration to become a gentleman thief himself, and begins a life of crime, and he vows that THIS plot to avenge his father will be his final heist.

Omar Sy has been a well known comedian in France for the better part of the last two decades, but he gained international fame thanks to his role in “Les Intouchables” in 2011, for which he won a prestigious César award, the equivalent of an Oscar in France. He said he was intrigued by “Lupin” because his character is constantly in action; plotting, planning and executing his frankly illegal plans, all whilst maintaining a gentlemanly demeanour. And using Arsène Lupin as inspiration makes a very vivid, rich and intriguing script. Sy isn’t just playing Assane, he is also playing the various people Assane pretends to be, in order to achieve his goals.

I am also fluent in French, I’ve lived in Paris and my husband is French so I watched the series in its original language from an International and a French perspective. Personally I gave the show a 8/10 for these reasons; The show is fast paced, dynamic, and the suspense is practically non-stop. It is rare to have a show in which the narrative is constantly developing. Honestly the second an episode finishes you are itching to watch another, and then all of a sudden it is 4am and you have to get up for work in 3 hours.

The story is also developed in a way that if you are unfamiliar with Arsène Lupin, you will learn about his story whilst appreciating the narrative’s twist and turns, and if you are fan already, then you cannot really be disappointed because Sy does not play Lupin, he plays a character paying homage to him.

And Assane’s cunningness is so intriguing; how he pulls off his schemes, discovering what his future plans are etc. while watching the show I thought of the critically acclaimed film “Catch me if you can”, because its the same cat-and-mouse game the protagonist plays with the police, which creates a lot of “AH no way that’s how he did that” moments for the audience. Which we love don’t we?

And then the city of Paris plays a crucial part role. The producers got access to the Louvre museum who’s management is notorious for not letting people film inside, especially in the room in which the Mona Lisa is displayed. They filmed in the Jardin des Tuileries, the rooftops, around the Eiffel Tower and many more emblematic Paris landmarks, which makes for a fascinating backdrop. But producers were also keen on not just showing the “post card” version of Paris but also some harsh realities of life there, many scenes were filmed in the rough suburbs of Paris. All of these provides for an extremely rich variety of backgrounds and themes.

The only slightly negative thought I had watching the series is that I found that Omar Sy’s build was not made for this role. He is super sleep, he can enter a room and you wouldn’t notice him, he walks unnoticed into buildings and in the dark. But Omar Sy is 6″2 with a strong build. His acting is great, but how can such a big man be so sneaky? How can he go unnoticed? It’s a small observation but one that stayed in my mind throughout.

It is interesting to note the popularity of foreign language shows on Netflix. Did you know that Casa de Papel is Netflix’s second most watched show ever. There are also many other shows in German, in Korean and now “Lupin” is the latest hit.

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