“The role of the critic as a trendsetter has weakened,” a speech lazily proclaimed by a character in this review by Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, Personal buyer) of the ever-changing world of art and commerce. The line is spoken by Laure (Théret) a digital media strategist recently hired by a century-old publishing house. The company is propelled into the 21st century, a landscape where blog visits are more important than book sales and where printing is dead (an idea that is not lost on the fact that you may be reading this. in a real newspaper).
But the plot, so to speak, concerns Alain (Canet), the boss of a prestigious publishing house having to reluctantly accept the fact that the masses interact with the media on their tablets and smartphones (imagine that!). But there is also Léonard (Macaigne), a respected author whose new book Alain has decided to leave for publication. Leonardo’s novels tend to be what he calls “auto-fiction” (the French title of the film is Double Lives, which perhaps goes straight to the point). A novelist, he draws on his relationships to give substance to his work, which comes back to eat away at him, and sparks many conversations about the author’s role in this world.
This is really what this film is about, in its determined and bourgeois way. It’s a succession of conversations – and to be clear, this film is a perpetual flow of people debating contemporary issues in a particularly Gallic way: how we engage with the world, how art is designed, and how the internet has come to be. changed the way we engage with information.
There are so many issues that Assayas engages with, sometimes gleefully and other times hammering, maybe wrongly, that it’s often dizzying. But it is this very density of thought, and the beautiful ways in which these themes are examined, that makes the film shine. And while Non-fiction can be quaint in its examination of art versus commerce, it is never boring. Of course, this presupposes that the viewer is ready for a deep dive into the realm of a particular brand of culture talk in which your mileage may vary. There are clever cinematic references and a path to the meta that Assayas brilliantly orchestrates. “We choose what we read to validate ourselves,” which is the guiding line of a film that takes the pulse of the state of contemporary union, and gently but effectively eviscerates it.