In “Paris, the 13th District”, a very French French film, he loves and she is loved, but they do not love each other, not at all, or maybe not yet. This is how it goes with matters of the heart, onscreen and off. Desire is difficult, fickle, alternately fleeting and permanent, tragic and transcendent. But in French cinema it often sounds unmistakably beautiful, elevated. It’s the same here, when lovely people exchange caresses during filmmaking, their every breathless moment is heightened, and their naked bodies offer up pleasures of their own.
Those bodies — shimmering and restless — fill the screen in “Paris, 13th District,” a sexy, laid-back, and sometimes nostalgic story about being young and alive for other people. Filmed largely in black and white, the film is a tonal and thematic change of pace for director Jacques Ouard, who has a knack for haunting the grim, bleak corners of human existence. His thriller “A Prophet” centers on a young man of Arab descent and his brutal coming-of-age in a French prison; Most recently, Audiard directed several episodes of the TV series “Le Bureau”. Violence in this work swallows up the whole world.
Audiard is after something different in “Paris, 13th District”. Loose but energetic, it follows a handful of characters who frolic towards happiness. The first part deals with the tentative relationship between Emily (Lucy Zhang), a French Chinese woman who is drifting despite life, and her new tenant, the charming Camille (Makita Samba), a black teacher who plans to obtain a doctorate. is making. The story begins with him stopping in the middle of a period of cohabitation. They’re warm to each other, appropriately, and as the flawless camera hovers over them, you’re reminded how sublime it is to see the tenderness onscreen.
Lovemaking’s easy, sensual warmth is intimate and inviting, which is what describes “Paris, 13th District” as a whole. Written by Audiard with Céline Siamma and Lee Messias, the film is based on three stories from American cartoonist Adrian Tomine’s collection “Killing and Dying”. It is not a literal adaptation, although there are points of connection between the original and this version. Mostly, what unites them is how each erases the noble spirit from the stories of everyday life; Here, life suddenly changes and even falls apart in an instant, a piercing absence, a sublime kiss.