After a short trip to America where he previously made his first film in English, the modernist western “Sisters Brothers” with Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly, the famous French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone, Dheepan, The Beat That My Heart Skipped) returned to home territory. And for him, a somewhat atypical, modernist film inspired by the comics of the American Adrian Tomin. It’s a film that sits somewhere halfway between modern romantic comedies and new wave films with similar themes like Eric Rohmer’s “My Night With Maud”. It seems to me that the black-and-white “Les Olympiades, Paris” in the original or “Paris, 13th District” is the most innovative of all films made by the two-time winner of the British Bafta Award for Best Outside English Film, Golden Palm and Grand Jury Prize at Cannes and as many as ten Cesar Awards for Best Film, Director or Screenplay.
The plot of the film is set in skyscrapers called Les Olympiades located in the 13th arrondissement in the French or district, the district in our language. While it’s a nominally romantic comedy, it’s not even remotely romcom on the trail of Hollywood. It is a story about three women and one man who are friends, work colleagues, and occasionally lovers, and this is a film that shows how a love life can often be extremely complicated. We first meet Emilie (Lucie Zhang), a young Chinese woman who dropped out of college and works as a telephone operator and lives in her grandmother’s apartment in one of the skyscrapers. When he looks for a roommate, Camille (Makita Samba), a young black man who is also a professor of literature, will respond to the ad. Although Emilie was expecting a roommate when she heard the name of the interested party, when he appeared at the door, she would receive Camille in the apartment, and practically immediately in her bed, and they would enter into a relationship that everyone would look at differently. And while Emilie will obviously fall in love with a teacher who wouldn’t really commit to a more serious relationship, he will immediately let her know that they are not a couple and will soon start bringing new partners to the apartment.
The story soon moves on to 32-year-old Nora (Noemie Merlant) who has just returned to college, but her dreams will fall apart in the worst possible way as her colleagues will replace her with porn star with sex cam Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth). Soon, her life will merge with Camille’s, who in the meantime took a break from her doctorate and got a job as a real estate agent. The lives of all these characters will somehow begin to intertwine in a charming and superbly directed film that premiered on the official Cannes program and had seven Cesar Award nominations. Although “Paris, 13th District” may not be at the very top of Audiard’s filmography, it is certainly an interesting, modern, well-conceived and well-thought-out film that exudes melancholy, partly due to black and white photography.
Along with the director, the screenplay was written by a famous French filmmaker Celine Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady in Fire, Petit Maman), since Audiard, which arrived in serious years (1952), could hardly hit female characters so finely and realistically. and capture their perspective as yet a much younger, modern author. It is a film that captures the spirit of the times and how the lives of today’s young people are affected by the ubiquity of modern technology, smartphones, laptops, Skype, dating apps and everything else that today’s young people love. Although the feelings of many characters will be hurt here, there is nothing condemning and preaching against the lifestyle of young people who are doing much faster today than, say, the Audiard generation and who obviously experience relationships, feelings and intimacy quite differently from their predecessors. Rating 8/10.
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