Rebounding nicely from the supernatural worthlessness of Personal Shopper (2017), Olivier Assayas returns to meditations on art, commerce, and flawed celebrities with Non-Fiction.
His sights set on the Parisian publishing industry, the writer/director uses the contentious dynamic between pretentious author Léonard (Vincent Macaigne, The Innocents) and his idealistic publisher Alain (Guillaume Canet, The Beach) to posit what makes for quality literature and the current market for such products.
Filmed in clear, unremarkable fashion, their stimulating, rapid-fire conversations about the craft, augmented by insights from Léonard’s politician-aid wife Valérie (Nora Hamzawi) and Alain’s actress spouse Selena (Juliette Binoche), may be preaching to the art house choir, but nonetheless have the power to inspire significant reflection and debate on the topic at hand.
Colored by the men’s penchant for infidelity, the discussions on ebooks, celebrity-read audiobooks, and print media’s relevance arguably double as ones on the state of modern cinema, though Assayas’ overarching message seems to be that so-called tastemakers are as human and screwed up as everyone else and that personal opinions should be as individually cultivated as possible.
As with many of his films, however, the takeaways are a bit muddled, built with noble intentions that are likely to stir intense emotions within certain viewers while leaving others wishing for a more developed experience.
Grade: B. Rated R. Starts May 31 at the Fine Arts Theatre
(Photo: IFC Films)