A man seeking revenge for the death of his father attempts a risky museum heist in Lupin, a new series premiering on Netflix in January starring French actor and comedian Omar Sy. The series is a contemporary reimagining of a classic character in French detective fiction, Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief and master of disguise who was essentially the French equivalent of Sherlock Holmes.
Suave, stylish, and sophisticated, Lupin is the creation of Maurice Leblanc, who based the character partly on a French burglar/anarchist. Leblanc was also familiar with the gentleman thief featured in the work of Octave Mirbeau as well as E.W. Hornung’s famed gentleman thief, A.J. Raffles, and he also knew about Rocambole, a character whose adventures were recounted in a series of stories published between 1857 and 1870 by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail.
Relentlessly pursued by a detective named Ganimard, Lupin is captured stealing a woman’s jewels on board a ship. Although he is imprisoned, he ultimately escapes before standing trial and goes on to pull off many other colorful heists. In a June 1906 story, “Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late,” Lupin meets the aging detective, although for legal reasons—Arthur Conan Doyle objected—the name was changed to “Herlock Sholmes” when the story was included in the first book of collected stories. The Sholmes character appeared in a few more stories later on. All told, Leblanc wrote 17 novels and 39 novellas featuring Lupin.
The Netflix series is the creation of Louis Leterrier , who directed the 2013 heist thriller Now You See Me, in which a band of magicians pull off ingenious robberies. So it’s easy to see why he might be drawn to this project. Per the official premise: “As a teenager, Assane Diop’s life was turned upside down when his father died after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. 25 years later, Assane will use Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar as his inspiration to avenge his father.”
“We’re gonna steal it”
The trailer opens with a voiceover by Diop, explaining that he works as a janitor at the Louvre, surrounded by artwork worth millions. Currently on exhibit is a jeweled necklace that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, in advance of a public auction to sell the piece to the highest bidder. (I’m guessing this particular plot line is based on the Lupin short story “The Queen’s Necklace.”) “We’re gonna steal it,” he tells his partners in crime. “Go in as janitors, come out millionaires.” While his cronies are pulling the actual heist, Diop disguises himself as a wealthy potential buyer and crashes the auction.
The Louvre heist is personal. Diop’s father was unjustly accused of stealing Marie Antoinette’s necklace from the wealthy Pellegrini family, for whom he worked as a chauffeur. Diop is out for revenge. We learn that Diop’s father gave him copy of Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar as a child, and he passes that copy down to his own son. We also meet a police detective—clearly modeled on Ganimard—who is also a Lupin uber-fan, and he notices the similarities between Diop’s work and the fictional gentleman burglar (“the method, the panache, the style, the talent!”). His partner is unimpressed: “What’s next? D’Artagnan and the Three Little Pigs?”
All in all, the series looks enticing, although it’s a shame the trailer is dubbed. Lupin debuts on Netflix on January 8, 2021.
Listing image by Netflix