“Paris, 13th District” is the new film of Jacques Audiard, mainly known for “Dheepan” Palme d’or 2015, “A Prophet”, Oscar nominated in 2009 or “The Sisters Brothers” (2018) with Joaquin Phoenix and Jack Gyllenhaal which had won the Silver Lion of the Venice Film Festival and the César of the Best Director. Based on stories by the American graphic novelist Adrian Tomine, “Paris, 13th District” seems to be a new departure for the French director.
Accompanied by Céline Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”) and Léa Mysius as writers but also by Rone (Winner of Cannes Soundtrack Award) as a composer, Jacques Audiard portrays three thirty-year-old characters in a beautiful black and white photography.
In the Olympiades district of Paris, Émilie Wong (Lucie Zhang), a young woman with a degree who does some odd jobs seems to be caught between her family’s traditional Chinese culture and her liberated youth. Émilie is going to share a flat with a stranger, Camille Germain (Makita Samba), a cultured and cynical French professor who is preparing his agrégation in modern literature. On the other hand, Nora Ligier (Noémie Merlant), a real estate agent who has decided to resume her law studies.
Through these three characters (even if a fourth will appear progressively during the film), Paris 13th District tackles many social themes which, despite the close ages of the three characters, can speak to anyone over 20 years old.
The alternating editing of these stories that cut and overlap make the film dynamic. We easily get attached to the characters even if some behaviors seem sometimes a little too rooted in the cliché of the French auteur cinema. Mainly about the desire, its equivocal evocation and all the unspoken words. More than ever, the interpretation of the actors is one of the keys to success for this kind of film.
Indeed, if we look at the scenario in a global and rough way, it is not that far from some dingy TV movies that we can watch on Sunday afternoon on big TV channels. The spectator can easily be taken out of the film in case of some bad interpretation and mistakes from the actors.
But the writing and the interpretation of the actors, in particular Lucie Zhang (nominated for the Cesar for Most Promising Actress) and Makita Samba (nominated for the Cesar for Most Promising Actor), make this film deeply sensitive and touching. With great actors, beautiful black and white photography and masterful writing, Jacques Audiard’s “Paris 13th District” is a superb film in which we really feel like we are living a part of the lives of these different characters.
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