Arsene Lupin (Romain Duris, Kristin Scott Thomas, Pascal Greggory)
Arsene Lupin, for those who do not know him, is a gentleman burglar. He is a son of a criminal and has been educated by his father, though he differs in one respect: he has vowed not to kill anyone, however dire the circumstances. Arsene’s universe is much akin to anything written by Alexandre Dumas such as The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Christo. The big difference is that Arsene lives in the fin-de-siecle, though the problems he faces remain the same: the royalists trying to re-establish the French Monarchy, rich aristocrats scheming to relieve people of their treasures and the like. Arsene also has the problem (or pleasure depending on your point of view), much like James Bond, of falling in love with every lovely lady that passes within ten miles of his sight. Thus romance and intrigue, hidden treasures and multiple identities (Arsene is obviously also a master of disguise) are at the heart of any Lupin story.
This 2004 adaptation is based on the 1924 novel The Countess of Cagliostro and is high on atmosphere and production values (the reported budget being 23 million Euros), though it treats the story only as a necessity to bring us from one skirmish to the other, from one lady’s bed to the other and from one flaming explosion to the next. The Countess of the title is an enigmatic figure of extraordinary beauty, played to perfection by English actress Kristin
Scott Thomas. She has come to know about a plan of the royalists to put the rightful heir back on the French throne; this does not interest her as much as the fact that they plan to use the Bourbon treasure sealed away somewhere secret to finance their goals. The treasure’s whereabouts can be understood with the help of three crucifixes, each one from an important cathedral or monastery, and each one containing hints as to where to find the next.
Arsene finds out about the royalists’ plan and sides (you guessed it) with the beautiful Countess... which may not have been such a good idea since she seems somehow connected to his father, who was mysteriously murdered in Arsene's youth.
Arsene Lupin is very young in this adventure (it is, if you will, his ‘coming of age story’ with flash-backs to his youth and his education by his father), in fact Arsene is much younger here than in most of Leblanc’s novels. This makes Lupin a boyish ruffian and petty thief rather than the ‘gentleman burglar’ who is more well-known, but Romain Duris (Le divorce) plays this rakish vagabond pitch-perfect and his chemistry with Scott Thomas and Eva Green (who plays his cousin) is palpable.