This dialogue-heavy film doesn't convince. That an essay on digitisation is filmed in 16mm tips you off as to which side Assayas belongs, and its points about mid-life crisis and the culture industry are too obvious and clumsily executed. Amid a surfeit of affairs, only Leonard & Valerie's marriage rings true, and it's appropriate that the film's resolution lies with them rather than its other plodding intellectuals.
Mubi's description of this being like a dinner party is spot-on. A dinner party wo which you have invited your most intellectual and difficult friends, 90% of which have or have had an affair with each other. Sounds like fun? Maybe, but it's also a bit exhausting and eventually you will ask yourself whether it was worth all the trouble.
Quintessentially French, reminiscent of ‘Things To Come’. Bourgeois liberals waxing lyrical about Socialism, cultural shifts in publishing industry marketing, bed hopping mid-life crises, the ethics behind thinly veiled autobiographies within fictions and philosophical dialectics all feature. It works. Assayas just allows characters to exist without need for closure in the era of Macron. 3.5
It's 106 minutes of people having interesting conversations at parties, in bedrooms, offices, restaurants.... and it's great. But if 106 minutes of solid conversation in French about media, books, publishing and art might at all sound like a chore, it would be best to avoid this one. Despite how much I enjoyed the film, it feels like "slight" Assayas.
I'm all about choosing change rather than suffering from it, I'm with the young woman on that. But I'm young and even I'm scared of massive changes in the literary world even if the biggest ones have already occurred. Canet and Binoche are both aces in this frank discussion on digital taking over the publishing industry in the new age we live in.
As a librarian, I'm no stranger to fraught conversations about the Great and Powerful "digital transition." This includes being bored or frustrated by them, sure, but leaves lots of room for professional self-interest, intellectual fascination, and political agita. Assayas, after making a pair of brilliantly playful, umbrous films that address these issues obliquely, here engages them directly, and ho-hummingly.
Exquisite take on the state of culture in the age of Kindle, delivered with tongue-in-cheek cleverness by a masterful auteur. The comedic clichés and conventions are simply a smokescreen. Assays is mainly interested in the social and cultural effects of new media. Only a French director could mix Adorno and SEO, tweets and Balzac with such savoir faire. A must-see for anybody interested in media studies.