AFI Fest: “Paris, 13th District” Review

-Allison McCulloch

105 mins. | France | 2021

Émilie (Lucie Wong) is in sales and explores a sexual relationship with Camille (Makita Samba), her roommate who is a professor who doesn’t want to be tied down. When Camille starts bringing over other girls, namely Stéphanie (Oceane Cairaty), Lucie tells her she must pay rent every night she comes over and lies that Camille is also seeing a country girl named Mathilde. Is it jealousy or a need to cover bills? Only the audience can decide.

There’s a mini Portrait of a Lady on Fire reunion with writer/director Céline Sciamma co-writing this film and co-star Noémie Merlant appearing in this film as Nora, a 33-year-old law student who’s bullied because of her age and mistaken identity. As a real-estate agent, she finds her way to Camille and the rest is history.

When glancing through Peter Bradshaw and David Ehlrich’s reviews of this film, I was struck by how focused they were on the sex in the movie, as if they had never seen a French film with nudity before. Sex is definitely a constant theme, but it is mainly the relationships of the characters that drive the film forward. Based on the short stories “Amber Sweet”, “Killing and Dying”, and “Hawaiian Getaway” by Adrian Tomine, it isn’t surprising that there’s a lot going on and a lot to break down. Noémie Merlant even looks so much like her doppelgänger (Jehnny Beth), even when we see them together, we can’t be 100% sure that they aren’t the same person until we see the credits roll.

The film has a triumphant score by Rone and beautiful black and white cinematography by Paul Guilhaume (with some Amber Sweet scenes in color). Jacques Audiard has shown that he is a director’s director with films like A Prophet and Rust and Bone. I would love for him to regain some inspiration, as something was lacking to make this film cohesive or classic. Definitely check out if you’re into French films or you’re just a regular cinephile exploring Cannes selections.

Vegan alert:
-Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth) felt like she was abusing a dog because its owner wanted her to perform for him
-Lucie shipped raw meat to a guy whose voice annoyed her

Rating: 6/10

Follow Allison McCulloch on Twitter.

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