Adventures of Arsene Lupin, The

Director: Jean-Paul Salome

France-U.K.-Spain-Italy| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 131 min.

A thoroughly entertaining period romp bursting with intrigue, Arsene Lupin is a keenly crafted take on the gentleman burglar whose adventures in fin de siecle Paris are immortalised in 18 popular novels by Maurice Leblanc. In 1882, future nimble-fingered master of disguise Arsene Lupin is a boy (Guillaume Huet) living in Normandy with his mother and father Jean—a rumoured thief. Jean is teaching his son to box when government officials arrive to arrest him. Dad’s advice prior to making a daring escape will serve the lad well: ‘Distract your prey—that’s the key. Remember that and you’ll never get caught.’
Mother and son are turned out from the château of a wealthy relative and Royalist who belongs to a determined group intent on reinstating the monarchy. Fifteen years later, Lupin (Romain Duris) is working under an alias, deftly relieving women of their jewels on an ocean liner en route for Le Havre. When he meets Josephine, the Countess of Cagliostro (Kristin Scott Thomas) under highly dramatic circumstances, she rejects the idea of a partnership—in crime or otherwise. Fetching, as always, in corset-based finery, Scott Thomas gives a dandy performance as a woman of mystery whose delicate beauty is at odds with her iron will.
Told with flair and sufficient means in sumptuously convincing locations augmented by excellent digital effects work, director Jean-Paul Salome’s highly visual storytelling is grounded in deep-seated motivations—alongside frivolous fun. Evocative costumes, a real feel for the bustling but dangerous Paris of a century ago and the chutzpah to throw in some unlikely genre elements à la Brotherhood of the Wolf add up to a package both funny and touching.

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