“Paris Police 1900”, “Lupin”, “En thérapie”: Those french series that brings us together

No french tv channel could have produced “Game of Thrones” (up to 15 million dollars per episode). But with only a tenth of this amount, Canal+ nevertheless manages to craft little gems such as “Baron Noir”, “The Bureau” or, lately, “Paris Police 1900”.

Powerfully universalist, series have the innate capacity to unite us all throughout the globe. This is even more true since the advent of online streaming platforms. A stimulating frenzy. Given the size of the wave, the french series could’ve as easily sunk. However, a bit of dusting paid off. “Lupin”, produced by Gaumont for Netflix, has crossed the 70 million views mark in a few weeks, besting “The Queen’s Gambit” and “La Casa de Papel”.

No french tv channel could have produced “Game of Thrones” (up to 15 million dollars per episode). But with only a tenth of this amount, Canal+ nevertheless manages to craft little gems such as “Baron Noir”, “The Bureau” or, lately, “Paris Police 1900”. A noir plunge into Belle Epoque Paris, its antisemitic leagues, its blackmailers and butchers. Provided they do not identify with the police’s opposition, the young generation will realize the historical violence of anti-Jewish racism in this country. So many 2.0 hate mongers take directly from the Guérin brothers and Édouard Drumont. This young generation may understand that male screenwriters can give life to powerful female characters, like Jeanne Chauvin, one of the first female lawyers.


Passing down history is always a challenge for the public service. Historical series are expensive, both in costuming and set construction, the cost often prohibiting a direction able to grab the young public’s attention. In “Les Aventures du jeune Voltaire” was found a great formula, by following the little known youth of the literary hero of the right to blasphemy. A spirited, lively Voltaire we wish to see carry on the adventure for one more season, to reach defending Calas the Chevalier de La Barre.  Just to remind the Unef that the freedom to criticize fanaticism protects equality.

From Arte, “En thérapie” has succeeded in making the most of an almost single and bare set, a psychoanalyst’s consulting room, to offer us therapy on the scale of a nation on the topics of terrorist attacks and the human condition. Its 35 episodes owe a lot to their two fathers, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, who pursue their work of national reconciliation with the brightness they are known for. And of course to the scenarists, who carved out dialogues of a depth rarely seen.Adel Chibane’s character, a cop haunted by the Bataclan’s tragedy and the slaughter of his family in Algeria, is a tribute to republican mixing. So tough luck if the Islamo-complacents of Orient XXI find him “deprived of psyche” and “neoconservative” because he can’t stand “cushy penpushers” like them. Far from the exhibitions, on the sofa, he’s the one to move us. In unison with all those who suffered through the attacks.

Caroline Fourest

The awkward age of identity cinema

We watch movies to travel, through characters who often bring us back to ourselves. Sometimes, we seek an emotion, sometimes representation, especially when it’s lacking elsewhere.

When I was ten, I identified with male heroes. Because they lived grand adventures and embraced magnificent women.

When I was twenty, When Night is Falling allowed me to realize I was a lesbian.

Twenty years later, it’s with joy in my heart that I saw Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Call me by your name, or even Portrait of a lady on fire tug at the heartstrings of all kinds of audiences. Even Christmas movies, usually so heteronormative, are warming up to it. Happiest Season shows the celebration by following a lesbian couple, with Kristen Stewart, and Mackenzie Davis in the role of her girlfriend. A true gift. 

remains a question: what do we do about zombies and aliens?

Instead of revelling in those, the young identitarian guard and its buzz-seeking press wonders if Viggo Mortensen is entitled to direct Falling, telling the story of a gay character. Reminding everyone that none of them knows his sexuality, the artist sends them packing and asks to be judged only by the sincerity of his movie. Isn’t this the most vital element?

To play a part, it is the soul of cinema. Contrary to the assignment denounced by Tania de Montaigne. Yet, we live in this awkward age where Zoé Saldana has to apologize to have played the part of Nina Simone for not being as black as her, where Fanny Ardant faced reproaches for playing a trans woman. Accused of appropriation, Scarlet Johannson had to give up on performing Dante Gill, a mafioso assigned female at birth in the 1970s. The movie’s release was pushed back and seems to now be destined to a TV broadcast.

Renowned actors are needed to show those movies about characters from minorities to large audiences, especially when the economy is fragile and the market reticent. Who would dare try after those sparked controversies?

The young vigilantes of identity do not concern themselves with such matters. It is not about pushing back against stereotypes, but complaining to exist.

When they talk in good faith, they explain roles of characters that are part of a minority should be « saved » for actors « affected by the same issues »  as they do not have much access to other roles. It’s facing the issue backwards. The goal is to go towards a cinema in which trans actresses can play cis women characters in romcoms, homosexuals play heterosexuals without having to hide their private life, and black actors, classical heroes, as Omar Sy does in « Lupin ».

This ongoing revolution offends the old guard. Though luck. Gays are gay, trans are trans, bearers of handicaps are bearers of handicaps…Only, remains a question: what do we do about the zombies and aliens?

L’Assignation. Les Noirs n’existent pas Grasset, 2018.

Caroline Fourest