Friday, June 24, 2016

The Gentleman Thief of France

I will freely admit that I'm a Francophile, although I think most of my close friends know this fact. I have probably bored many a person while talking (in depth) about a French film I recently watched, some chanson that I listened to over ten times, or even a book that made me want to move to Paris or New Orleans (ahem). In any case, Vive le France for everything!

Thanks to my publisher Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Productions, I learned of a character and series of books that I knew I had to read for a myriad of reasons. Thanks to Tommy, I was introduced to author Maurice Leblanc and his genius of a character Arsene Lupin!

(the author - taken from the Wikipedia page)

Monsieur Lupin is quite the suave and dashing fellow, yet beware while being around him, especially if you wear fine jewelry or have a taste for fine art. He does as well and would be more than happy to take it from you all the while engaging you in pleasant conversation about the latest play. Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief is an introduction to Lupin and the France of his time. Gaiety, much decadence, and much, much finery. All ready to be plucked by Lupin. As the blurb on the back of the book states, Lupin was created in response to the popularity of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, one of the stories, "Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late", has the two fictional characters meeting each other for the first time. Lupin even steals Sherlock's pocket watch. Clever devil. Lupin is not an evil man; on the contrary, he is "chaotic good" - he steals for fun and enjoys giving what he steals to those less fortunate. Other times, however, he keeps his bounty for himself. One of the stories has him writing a letter to a Baron Satan, advising that he loves the art collection the Baron has collected and that it would be better if he just sent it to him. If not, he would steal it right from his house. And so he does, all the while still in prison. Like I said - clever devil.

The collection of short stories provides an excellent view of Lupin; however, Leblanc treats him the way Fitzgerald treated Gatsby - you never know what he looks like. For the most part, Lupin is described as suave and refined, yet there are no physical descriptions of him at all. And honestly, doesn't that just add to the mystery? Also, Lupin has a habit of wearing disguises, all the while conversing with people about that "scoundrel" Lupin!

I recently learned that there was a 2004 film based on several Lupin stories. In fact, I watched it last night. Much to my horror and joy, the entire film is in French. With no subtitles. At all. Merde. However, if you have a basic grasp of French, you can pretty much figure out what's going on in the story. And, might I add that Kristin Scott Thomas and Eva Green (from Penny Dreadful) are both in the film?  A very good film to check out when you can. There's even an anime based on Lupin's grandson, Lupin III.

I did have another reason for reading this and many other Lupin books, but I'll save that conversation for late this year/next year.

Vive le Lupin!

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