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New To DVD - NON-FICTION

non-fiction review
The lives and loves of a group of Parisians in the publishing industry.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Olivier Assayas

Starring: Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Christa Théret, Nora Hamzawi

non-fiction uk dvd




In movies like Irma Vep, Demonlover and Clouds of Sils Maria, writer/director Olivier Assayas has set his dramas against a backdrop of various media related industries, yet none of them have ever created the sense that Assayas is entirely familiar with the worlds he's exploring. His latest, Non-Fiction, revolves around the publishing industry, and is as one-dimensional a rendering of that particular milieu as his exploration of the video games industry in Demonlover.


non-fiction review

The movie opens with literary editor Alain (Guillaume Canet) having a lengthy discussion with author Léonard (Vincent Macaigne) regarding his disinterest in publishing the latter's latest novel. Alain feels the world has moved on from the sort of 'auto-fiction' Léonard specialises in, which mostly consists of sordid recountings of his sexual conquests, and frankly he finds the content of Léonard's book grubby and distasteful. What he doesn't realise is that one of the women described in the book is his wife, Selena (Juliette Binoche), who has been having an affair with Léonard for several years now. Alain is having an affair of his own, with his young employee Laure (Christa Théret), whom he hired to advise on transitioning to the digital age.


non-fiction review

The set-up is in place for a classic French farce, but satire has never been Assayas's strong point. Non-Fiction might be his talkiest film to date, and an awful lot of it consists of shop talk. As with the discussions of gaming in Demonlover, there are lengthy scenes here in which Alain and others talk about what the publishing business must do to adapt to changing times. None of the dialogue feels like a natural conversation between people immersed in their own industry, rather a series of outdated talking points rattled off by an aging artist who seems angry at a changing world, without having any genuine understanding of how it's changing. If Assayas wanted to explore an industry and art form facing an uncertain future, wouldn't film, rather than literature, have proved more fitting to his thesis? After all, non-blockbuster cinema is being kept alive largely by the elderly, whereas the opposite applies to books.

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Occasionally, Non-Fiction threatens to deliver on its initial promise of satire, usually when Léonard is onscreen. The character may be a lazy stereotype of an egotistical and thin-skinned writer, but Macaigne makes this peculiar brand of nebbish very watchable. The movie's strongest scene sees Léonard alter a key detail in his book regarding a blow job he received from Selena in a cinema, changing the movie they attended from The Force Awakens to The White Ribbon. His attempt to make himself seem more intellectual backfires during a radio interview when Léonard is chastised for engaging in such lewd behaviour during a movie about the rise of encroaching Nazism. It's a rare hint of the sharp satire Non-Fiction might have been in the hands of someone like Ruben Ostlund, whose The Square hilariously skewered the sort of people Assayas portrays here.


non-fiction review

As we're left to endure endless on-the-nose debates about paper versus digital versus audio books, watching Non-Fiction is a lot like attending your spouse or partner's office party, where you neither know nor care for any of the people present and are only kept awake by trying to guess which of their co-workers they might be sleeping with.

Non-Fiction comes to UK DVD December 2nd.




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