French Film Festival: Non Fiction

by Jennifer Bryce


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This film, directed by Olivier Assayas will have special appeal to writers. There are animated discussions about the nature of fiction, the future of print media — everyone huddled over wine and finger food. I felt very much at home!

Near the end of the film there is a reference to words from Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard: Everything must change so that everything can stay the same. And indeed, this can be seen as the main premise of the film — most significantly as a response to discussions about the future of literature, but also as an underpinning to the lives of the main characters in the film. Should the publishing company focus on E-Books and audiobooks? There is an amusing suggestion that Juliette Binoche would be a good person to read a particular audiobook: Binoche plays the part of Selena in the film.

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Leonard , played by Vincent Macaigne

The film opens with writer Leonard discussing his latest book with his publisher. He has published several books — Leonard describes his writing as ‘auto-fiction’ — but his critics say it is actually autobiography — a case of blurring the line between fact and fiction, because each book is about one of Leonard’s affairs — and we, the audience, discover that his latest affair is with Selena, the wife of his publisher. Unaware of this, the publisher tells Leonard that, on this occasion, he won’t offer Leonard a contract.

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Leonard with Selena

Leonard is a lovable, seemingly naive character. When Selena breaks off the affair, Leonard tries to tell his wife, who isn’t particularly interested. At the end of the film, we are on tenterhooks when Leonard and his wife have a beach-house lunch with Selena and her publisher husband. Will the truth about Leonard and Selena’s relationship slip out? It comes close when Leonard, in his naive way, admits that he’s been to the house before — he must have gone there on some occasion with Selena. All is well — and the countryside, a remote beach, is beautiful. On the way home, Leonard and his wife take a break (they are on a motor scooter) and, lying under a beautiful coastal pine tree, his wife tells him she is pregnant. Leonard seems stunned, but ultimately delighted. His writing will probably take a new direction. And near the end of the film there is mention of a ‘spike’ in the sale of print books in the US.