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Arsène Lupin, Yesterday and Today

When I was a child, I remember that in our rooms, on a shelf of the bookcase that was within reach of my brothers' little hands, there was a whole collection of Arsène Lupin novels, from the French LGF editions, that my father had bought and read as a boy in Nice at the end of the 1960s, and I would look at the covers, unable to understand what was written on them, fascinated by the slender allure of the handsome man with the moustache and the monocle.

Les confidences d’Arsène Lupin, LGF Editions, 1968, source

Arsène Lupin, son of Théophraste and Henriette Lupin, the gentleman cambrioleur, is one of the symbols of early 20th century France: a young man with an elegant allure, easygoing and irreproachable in his logic as a gentleman thief who takes on different personalities in each of his adventures, and who always finds his own benefit, who has never killed a man, whose thefts in one way or another we are never sorry were committed. It seems that Leblanc was inspired for this character of his by the life of Alexandre Marius Jacob, French anarchist and brilliant thief. Arsène Lupin steals for himself but also for the needy and always and only from the wealthy. A lover of women, gambling, luxury and of course money, Lupin is characterized by a remarkable sense of humor. He is a skilled transformer, able to make up and disguise himself according to the occasion in other people that he plays to perfection. Arsène is also described as skilled in sports, especially martial arts, has skills as a magician and excels in the art of theft. Very intelligent and cunning, ironic and daring, he possesses great culture and is also a connoisseur of art as well as of the refined art of seduction. And he never resorts to violence.

Perennially pursued by Inspector Ganimard, whose respect he enjoys, Arsène Lupin (17 novels, 39 short stories and 5 plays by Maurice Leblanc) has been brought to the screen by various productions (French or international) that have more or less faithfully portrayed his exploits and that, personally, have always left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. We remember for the cinema:

  • The Teeth of the Tiger, directed by Chester Withey (Silent film of 1919 set in New York, tells of an Arsène Lupin retired to private life).

  • Arsène Lupin, directed by Jack Conway (1932).

  • Les Aventures d'Arsène Lupin directed by Jacques Becker (1957: Divided into about 4 episodes, it tells the stealthy deeds of the gentleman thief Arsenio Lupin engaged in the theft of Renaissance paintings and jewels of high value).

  • Signé Arsène Lupin directed by Yves Robert (1959 It is the sequel of Les Aventures d'Arsène Lupin of 1957).

  • Arsène Lupin directed by Jean-Paul Salomé (this 2004 film, in spite of the care for photography and costumes - all the jewels are by Cartier - and the literary adherence, turns out to be a failure, starting - in my opinion - from the casting error with the actor Roman Duris who plays Arsène Lupin).

And for the television:

  • Arsène Lupin (In this series of films shot between 1971 and 1974, Lupin is played by Georges Descrières, a famous French actor, definitely too old to play the role of the multifaceted protagonist of the novels, but the series was a huge success in Europe).

  • Arsène Lupin joue et perd (a 6-episode French television series first broadcast over the course of a single season in 1980).

  • Le Retour d'Arsène Lupin ( is a 12-episode French television series first broadcast over the course of a single season from 1989 to 1990, followed by the series Les Nouveaux Exploits d'Arsène Lupin, filmed and diffused between 1995 and 1996).

The latest revival of this typically French story, Netflix has scheduled the release of its new product - Lupin, indeed - for early January.

I was very skeptical, as a deep lover of the gentleman cambrioleur, to see the role assigned to Omar Sy, highly regarded Senegalese actor naturalized in France. Remaining biased, however, I could not resist the appeal of my number one idol, and I started the first episode, which closely resembles the prologue of the whole saga, feeling inevitably betrayed by the lack of precision (in this case: Marie Antoinette's necklace is something very different from what is exhibited in the Louvre under the crystal case by the Pellegrini family) and attention to the reality of the novel. Obfuscated by the offense, and not satisfied with the betrayal I suffered, after the first episode I immediately launched the second, to feel fascinated by the protagonist, to see beautiful Paris again, to be carried away by the plot, to discover a mature Ludivine Sagnier, and to forget that Assane Diop is not, nor does he want to be, Arsène Lupin. And the audience confirms it: this new series has been an international success that in twenty days has surpassed Bridgerton and The Queen's Gambit: 70 million households would have been glued to the screen, compared to the 63 of the romantic costume drama and the 62 of the miniseries that has made the platform's audience fall in love with the game of chess, with a rating on Netflix of 96%. Lupin also has ranked No.1 on Netflix's consumer-facing Top 10 chart in dozens of countries including Brazil, Vietnam, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Sweden. Its Metacritic rating is 85, while its Rotten Tomatoes freshness certification is 93. I look forward to the second series because, although I come from the old world, I know that, underneath, the novelty is so good for me and I rejoice in the intelligence of the producers and Omar Sy to have chosen not to photocopy a unique character to which the history of cinema has never been able to give a worthy representative on earth. Enjoy and give me some news!



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