Arsene Lupin (2004)

Starring: Romain Duris, Kristin Scott Thomas, Eva Green, Pascal Greggory, Robin Renucci

Directed by: Jean-Paul Salomé

Rating: 1 2 3

Romain Duris as Arsene Lupin

Meet Arsene Lupin, a legend in his own dejeuner (in France anyway). Gentleman thief, rogue and bounder, martial arts expert and all round embodiment of chapliness. This eponymous film finds him on a mission to avenge the murder of his father, also a gentleman thief, rogue and bounder, martial arts expert, yada yada yada. On the way, he steals a lot of jewellery in a smooth 'n' sneaky, Ocean's Eleven kinda way and breaks a lot of hearts, including that of his cousin and childhood sweetheart Clarisse (Kingdom of Heaven's Eva Green, looking very lovely indeed). He also becomes embroiled in the tangled web of lies spun by arch femme fatale Josephine Balsamo (Kristin Scott Thomas on superb, scene-stealing form), a mysterious witch descended from a legendary sorcerer and alchemist, with a dazzling line in murder, mayhem and utterly gorgeous outfits.

Diamonds glitter, bombs explode, bodices rip; treasure is discovered and throats are cut. 19th century melodramatic cliches abound: bare knuckle boxing, opium pipes and exiled Princes, stick fighting, opera capes and twirling 'taches, dastardly, indestructible villains and damsels in distress - it's all there bar Jack the Ripper and the Elephant Man - but this is fin de siècle France after all, and they're busy hamming it up in a London From Hell.

Kristin Scott Thomas as femme fatale Josephine with Romain Duris as Arsene Lupin

Arsene Lupin is sexy, stylish and luscious and lavish as a Victorian brothel and French as baguettes and brie. Just please don't ask me what was going on because to be honest I have no clue. Stuff happens. All the time. The plot twists and turns like a confused corkscrew, mixing together a baffling concoction of lies and fantasies, depravity and deceit, bluffs, double bluffs, triple bluffs and probably quadruple bluffs too. It also goes on rather too long, and just when you think it's all ended rather nicely, you're confronted by an extra 20 minutes which make even less sense than what's gone before, and in fact sit rather uncomfortably with the rest of the film. Who killed Arsene's father? Was it Josephine on the clifftop with the rock? Trust me, after about half an hour, you really won't care.

If you're interested in character development, plot progression and, um, stuff that makes sense then Arsene Lupin is probably not for you. But if you're a sucker for dashing heroes with something of the cad about the boy, sumptuous period costume and the odd bit of nifty camera work then it's definitely worth a look. Et ça suffit pour moi.

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