director Jacques Audiard is not exactly known for romance. While his films please The sisters brothers, A prophetand Dheepan While they have sympathy for their characters, there is little love in Audiard’s work. Even with a movie like rust and bone, romance rises from the ashes of great tragedy and pain. That’s why Audiard’s latest film Paris, 13th district is such a pleasant surprise, a sweet and loving tale of interconnected romances told with beautiful black and white cinematography Paul Guilhaume and a collection of charming, if flawed, characters.
Based on the cartoonist’s comic short stories Adrian Tomine, Paris 13th district‘s screenplay—by Audiard, Leah Mysiusand Celine Sciamma– combines several of Tomine’s stories, sets them in Paris and ties them together into one surprisingly warm tale. We first meet Emilie Wong (Lucy Zhang), who has a room to rent and despite looking for a female roommate Camille Germain (Makita Samba), a male teacher who wants to quit his current job. Shortly after Camille moves in with her, the two become sexually involved, and while Émilie begins to fall in love, Camille wants to keep things lighter, which of course causes trouble between the two.
Meanwhile Nora Ligier (Noemie Merlant) is a 33-year-old college student who unknowingly goes to a party dressed like Amber Sweet (Jenny Beth), a popular camgirl. After constant taunting from her classmates, Nora seeks out Amber and becomes friends with her. But those two relationships cross paths when Nora drops out of school and starts working at a real estate agency where Camille now works. As these four stories intersect and intertwine, these characters attempt to find love, sex, and most importantly, happiness in their own unique ways.
While this type of story might feel unusual for Audiard, his compassion and love for these characters is clear from the start. Like the best films from Audiard, Paris, 13th district draws heavily on the terrific performances of its actors, and here the narration feels much lighter and more free-flowing than in his other works. Much of this could have to do with his co-writers, particularly Sciamma, who wrote and directed Portrait of a lady on fire and Little mom– both films that take the time to explore relationships without much rush. Still, with that lighter touch Paris, 13th district remains compelling through its diverse stories and connecting characters.
Each of these characters is fantastic in their own way, although Beth’s Amber Sweet understandably falls short as she exists primarily through Nora’s computer screen. But what really stands out here is Zhang, the character in whom we can most directly see the effects of love. After having sex with someone, Émilie almost seems to be floating in mid-air, and while she tries to be tough, that appearance easily breaks down as she begins to develop feelings for Camille. in many ways Paris, 13th district it’s all about how exploring who and how we love transforms our personalities, and nowhere is that more evident than in Zhang’s excellent performance.
Similarly, Samba is more withdrawn, but we can also see the subtle changes in his personality as he tries to figure out what he wants. Merlant is also wonderful and is going through the greatest eye opening when it comes to her love life. In her thirties, Nora’s sexual experiences have been questionable, and the taunts of her fellow students have only made her more uncertain about how to deal with her sexuality. But similar to Merlant’s appearance in Portrait of a lady on fireWatching this transformation is a feast for the eyes, right down to Nora’s beautiful final moments.
Audiard, Mysius and Sciamma join their fantastic cast to create an enchanting and alluring story told through an intimate group of relationships. This beautiful and simple tale of young love and finding oneself through love is one of the most romantic and sexiest films of 2022 yet.
Paris, 13th district is now in theaters and available through VOD services.
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https://collider.com/paris-13th-district-review-jacques-audiard/ Jacques Audiard’s film of love is pure bliss