Non-Fiction review – tale of literary passions loses the plot | Film

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Olivier Assayas is treading water with this amiable but self-indulgent and finally negligible movie (originally entitled Doubles Vies or Double Lives) about intrigue and adulterous goings-on in the publishing world of Paris.

It’s a film that ostentatiously concerns itself with contemporary, zeitgeisty issues such as digital culture and the internet, and whether this is undermining the world of reading and books. But strip out the strained speechifying on that subject and it could have been made at any time in the last 40 years. There are some funny lines, and, despite the literary setting, Assayas can’t resist cinephile gags, particularly a bizarre juxtaposition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Michael Haneke’s searing drama The White Ribbon. But once we’ve reached an in-joke about the movie’s own female lead – Juliette Binoche – the film has started munching its own tail.

Vincent Macaigne is Léonard, an author of middling literary fiction based on his own failed marriage and affairs. His sales are declining, and his urbane publisher Alain (Guillaume Canet) wants to drop him from his list; they have an excruciating lunch at which Alain can’t bring himself to say this out loud. But Léonard is having an affair with Alain’s wife, Selena (Binoche), whose loyal cheerleading on the home front may have been the only thing keeping Léonard’s career alive. Alain himself is having an affair with his head of digital policy, Laure (Christa Théret).

Just as Léonard is periodically asked if he is writing “autofiction” and if this is a viable genre, so Assayas seems to be playing around with the idea of autofilm. There is one interesting line: brooding on online abuse rising as literacy falls, Léonard remarks about trolls: “The less they read, the more wary they are of writing.” Very true.

Non-Fiction is released in the UK on 18 October.

Source: The Guardian
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