WORLDLY WEDNESDAY: "NON-FICTION" ON HULU
The 2018 French comedy-drama "Non-Fiction" is an extremely French movie. By which I mean, it's largely made up of scenes in which erudite characters engage in esoteric conversations about technology, literature, and philosophy, occasionally pausing to engage in various romantic trysts and liaisons. Fans of arthouse cinema and particularly Woody Allen's heady ensemble pieces of the '70s and '80s will find a lot to love here, while almost everyone else, I sense, will be left cold.
The film is NOT plot-driven, but essentially, we're following the parallel stories of two friends: publisher Alain Danielson (Guillaume Canet) and one of his formerly marquee authors, Léonard Spiegel (Vincent Macaigne). Danielson has a testy relationship with his wife, a well-known actress named Selena (Juliette Binoche), and is having a not-so-secret affair with an employee, digital consultant Laure (Christa Théret). Spiegel, meanwhile, has a wife, Valérie (Nora Hamzawi), as well as multiple mistresses, and continually complicates things by inserting all of his real-world relationships into his books. (See? It's very French.)
But rather than solely focusing on the human drama of whom is sleeping with whom (just assume it's everyone with everyone else), writer/director Olivier Assayas shifts his attention between the state of the publishing industry, questions about authorship and autobiography, and even broader questions about the relationship between art and commerce.
The vast majority of the film is quite literally taken up with smart characters having complicated, far-reaching, provocative conversations: whether listening to an audiobook is the same as reading it, or whether it's fair for an author to take material directly from his or her own life rather than fictionalizing or adapting it, or whether or not tweets should count as "writing." Only after you reach the conclusion do you realize that all of these questions, throughout, have really related back to simple themes about authenticity and honesty, the way that we hide ourselves from one another even long after the truth has become obvious.
Where to Watch: Hulu
Running time: 108 minutes
Genre: Romantic comedy-drama
In French with English subtitles
[Assayas is best known in the US for the Kristen Stewart ghost thriller "Personal Shopper," which you can stream now on Netflix. His highly-regarded biographical portrait of the terrorist Carlos the Jackal, "Carlos," is streaming on Amazon's IFC Films channel and Criterion Channel. - Lon]