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Paris, 13th District

Featured image for review of Paris, 13th District on Sean Kelly on Movies

Paris, 13th District

Synopsis:
Émilie meets Camille who is attracted to Nora, who crosses paths with Amber. Three girls and a boy – They’re friends, sometimes lovers and often both.

Table of Contents

The intersecting relationships between three residents of a Paris neighbourhood are explored in Paris, 13th District. Émilie Wong () is a young college graduate living in an apartment in the Les Olympiades complex belonging to her terminally ill grandmother. Looking for a roommate, Émilie meets high school teacher Camille Germain () and the two quickly become lovers. However, the union of the two doesn't last and Camille eventually moves out and takes over his friend's real estate business, in order to supplement his income while studying for his doctorate. Camille ends up hiring Nora Ligier (), who recently dropped out of law school as a result of an embarrassing case of mistaken identity between Nora and popular camgirl Amber Sweet ().

Paris, 13th District (Les Olympiades) is the latest film from Palme d'Or winning filmmaker Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone, Dheepan), which is a loose adaptation of the comic stories “Amber Sweet,” “Killing and Dying,” and “Hawaiian Getaway” by American cartoonist Adrian Tomine. The film, presented in black and white save for a single scene, focuses on a group of millennials in and around Paris' Les Olympiades apartment complex, whose lives intersect as they struggle to find connection and fulfilment.

The first half of Paris, 13th District is almost structured like an anthology. The film first tells the story of Émilie Wong and Camille Germain, whose purely sexual relationship gets complicated when Émilie begins to develop feelings for Camille and reacts jealously when he ends their sexual arrangement and begins a relationship with co-worker Stéphanie (Oceane Cairaty). In the next story, we are introduced to Nora Ligier who has come to Paris to study law but ends up dropping out after she is mistaken for online sex worker Amber Sweet and ends up getting a lot of crude messages as a result, though Nora soon develops a connection with the real Amber Sweet, whom she begins messaging online. The stories intersect when Nora begins working for Camille, leading to a relationship blossoming between the two, which results in some awkwardness when Camille rekindles his friendship with Émilie.

Admittedly, I expected a bit more going into Paris, 13th District, with me being drawn by the film's well-shot black and white visuals and a familiar face in the cast in the form of Noémie Merlant, who is best known as one of the leads of 2019's Portrait of a Lady on Fire (as well as the lesser-known, but still charming 2020 “girl falls in love with an amusement park ride” film Jumbo). While the film was decent, I feel that the film didn't have much substance, other than “who's having sex with whom.”

Speaking of which, the number of quite graphic sex scenes in Paris, 13th District is probably going to make or break most people's enjoyment of the film. While not on the near-gratuitous level of something like Blue is the Warmest Colour, the amount of sex in the film is another to make one feel a little uncomfortable. While it may be a cliche to say this, Paris, 13th District is indeed “very French” in this regard.

That said, if you can handle the amount of sexual content in the film, Paris, 13th District is still a solid relationship drama with some very well-shot black and white cinematography.

Trailer for Paris, 13th District

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.