Critique of Paris 13th: Groping towards happiness

In “Paris, 13th”, a very French French film, he loves himself and she loves himself, but they don’t love each other, not exactly, or mayb...


In “Paris, 13th”, a very French French film, he loves himself and she loves himself, but they don’t love each other, not exactly, or maybe not yet. That’s how it goes with affairs of the heart, on and off screen. Desire is cunning, changing, by turns fleeting and enduring, tragic and transcendent. But in French cinema, he often seems infallibly beautiful, exalted. That’s the case here, with the adorable people exchanging caresses as the shoot elevates their every breathless moment, and their naked bodies offer their own pleasures.

These bodies – shimmering and restless – fill the screen with “Paris, 13th arrondissement”, a sexy, laid-back and sometimes melancholic story about being young and alive for others. Shot largely in black and white, the film is a tonal and thematic change of pace for director Jacques Audiard, who has a habit of haunting the darkest and darkest corners of human existence. His thriller “A prophet” centers on a young man of Arab descent and his brutal transition to adulthood in a French prison; more recently, Audiard directed several episodes of the television series “Le Bureau”. In this work, violence devours entire worlds.

Audiard is looking for something different in “Paris, 13th”. Loose but energetic, it follows a handful of characters groping their way to happiness. The first part concerns the shy relationship between Emilie (Lucie Zhang), a Franco-Chinese woman who sails through life, and her new tenant, the charming Camille (Makita Samba), a black teacher who plans to obtain her doctorate. The story opens with them pausing between sets of coitus. They’re rightly hot for each other, and as the naive camera hovers near them, it reminds you how sublime it is to see tenderness on screen.

The easy and sensual warmth of lovemaking is intimate and inviting, which describes “Paris, 13e” as a whole. Written by Audiard with Céline Sciamma and Léa Mysius, the film is freely inspired by three stories from the collection of American cartoonist Adrian Tomine “kill and die.” It’s not a literal adaptation, although there are points of connection between the original and this version. Above all, what unites them is how each draws great sentiment from the stories of everyday life; here, lives change abruptly and even burst in a single moment, a haunting absence, a sublime kiss.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Critique of Paris 13th: Groping towards happiness
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