Greatly influenced by the works of Erik Rohmer that also plays out like an excellent Woody Allen comedy like “Husbands and Wives”, French auteur Olivier Assayas has crafted a sharply written, greatly acted, and richly satirical movie that profoundly examines and explores the state of art living and rather enduring degradation in the digital era that exposes the contradictions and duplicity that is also brings. Non-Fiction is perhaps Assayas most lightweight film to date, but it doesn’t mean its slight when it comes to themes or ideas.
The film centers on a small ensemble of characters like Allen’s “Husbands and Wives” including Alain (Guillaume Canet) who plays a editor for a reputable book publisher, who is trying to wrap his head where the literary market is headed. Will printed books survive? Are people actually reading less than they ever have? Why is authors get more readers to their blogs than to their own books? Will audiobooks become the new norm? Does a book really exist if it isn’t psychical? Assayas addresses all of these questions in this deeply philosophical and sophisticated manner and its no surprise. If you look at Assayas strong and prolific body of work, he has always been fascinated with deconstructing art, “Irma Vep”, “Demonlover”, “Summer Hours”, and of course his 2015 masterpiece “Clouds of Sils Maria” (My favorite film of 2015) all come to mind, and with each of these films Assayas has always been fascinated with how middle-aged people must attempt to deal with the ever-changing aspects life holds on their post-modern livelihoods.
As the story progresses with Alain, he ends up turning down from publishing the latest book from his writer friend Leonard (Vincent Macagine), who believes he is hitting a lot of the same notes, and it just contains insights into Leonard’s real-life affairs and lifestyles which the manuscript includes his characters performing a sexual act in a movie theater during Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”.
When in fact, Lenard is having an affair with Alain’s wife, the beautiful and charismatic actress Serena (Juliette Bichoche), in which they both recollect a memory that they actually performed the sexual act in front of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, but he just changed the detail to Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”, which later becomes a controversy from a radios how because how can one use origin film on the Nazi’s in Germany with a joke, which becomes a recurring hysterical joke throughout the film. Assayas brilliantly shows just how political correctness outrage is born from a few knee-jerk and reactionary people on the internet that make it seem like its normalized thinking when in fact its really not.
At home, Selena argues the merits of Leonard’s book to Alain, while trying to elevate her acting career that now consists mainly of playing a cop on a hit TV show. It also revealed that Alain is also having an affair with a woman at his office named Laure (Christa Theret), though she confesses to Alain that she wants to eventually move out of the relationship. We are then introduced to Leonard’s wife, Valerie (Nora Hamzawi), who’s the only one out of the 5 that isn’t having an affair, but she is an idealists that works under a politician, in which she is called out during a conversation by Alain how politicians are a facade, that it’s ultimately all about marketing than geniune ideas or platforms.
The film is Assayas most verbose film since “Summer Hours”, yet the dialogue is always engrossing. The movie’s structure consists mainly of get-togethers (over dinner, wine, snacks and even picnics), followed by intimate moments between the couples and affairs, and most of the conversations are about the digital era, about the pros and cons of social media, the decay of psychical media and print. The verbose dialogue is always sophisticated, and while many of these intelligent individuals ask deep questions on the state of things, none of them hold the answers.
All around the structure and intelligent banter works really well in “Non-Fiction”, and Binoche and Assayas prove once again they are a triumphant collaboration ass he shows the power and endless limitations she holds as an older actress. All around these conversations with these thoughtful characters are an absolute delight, and Assayas allows the viewers themselves how we can consider and implicate these changes in the near future? If anything Assayas is basically showing how love is always changing like culture and technology, and it is something no one can fully forecast or predict because of just how spontaneous and messy love is.