Paris, 13th District, 2021.
Directed by Jacques Audiard.
Starring Noémie Merlant, Makita Samba, Lucie Zhang, Jehnny Beth, Geneviève Doang, Pol White, Line Phé, Annabelle Milot, Lumina Wang, Camille Léon-Fucien, Stephen Manas, Rong-Ying Yang, Raphaelle Doyle, Oceane Cairaty, and Anaïde Rozam.
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.
Forget getting to know the characters, they are having sex with one other after barely getting to know each other in Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District. Emilie (Lucie Zhang) is seeking a new roommate and develops an instant physical attraction for Former teacher Camille (Makita Samba). It also becomes apparent that her feelings go beyond body and flesh desiring something real, even after they both agreed to keep it casual since Camille is working on his doctorate.
Noémie Merlant’s college student Nora faces the opposite problem; whereas Emilie is sexually promiscuous and lustful, celebrating sex and are regularly sleeping with different guys off dating social media apps, an unfortunate wig choice causes confusion among dimwitted campus men under the impression that Nora is actually a popular Internet sex worker. As a result, she is straight up sexually harassed, sending her down a path of talking to the actual Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth) and seeing how striking the similarities are.
Time skips also see Camille and Nora working together at a real estate company, so between the four of them (it’s clear that Nora is garnering an affection for Amber while chatting online), there’s a love square that doesn’t necessarily amount to much beyond more sex. It’s also unclear what black-and-white cinematography adds to a project like this, but like most aspects here it’s easy on the eyes without offering much brain stimulation.
It also doesn’t help that, while young and uncovering more of their identities, these characters come across self-absorbed and careless towards the people they are getting close to. That’s not to say they are unlikable, but when the other half of the movie is, admittedly erotic, sex scenes, there’s not a whole lot to connect to emotionally (sex is rarely used to convey something relevant to the characters, outside a terrific moment of self-discovery and ownership of her sexual abilities with Nora).
That’s also shocking considering the script comes from Noémie Merlant collaborator Céline Sciamma, Jacques Audiard, Nicolas Livecchi), and Léa Mysius working from short stories by Adrian Tomine. There’s just not enough character heat behind all that burning desire, although anyone looking for simple and sexually charged storytelling headed in predictable crowd-pleasing directions will find something of value.
Tickets can be purchased here.
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com