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MOVIES: Paris, 13th District - Review



To experience Paris, 13th District - or to call it by its French title, Les Olympiades - to which it borrows its name from the location of the story, the high rise blocks in the 13th District - is to experience a collection of romantic stories pulled together and intricately woven with the care and affection that its characters command - four central characters key to the plot, Paris 13th District takes its time to juggle them - there are echoes of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy which I watched just the other day in its approach - and it's a switch in genre for gifted filmmaker Jacques Audiard, who picks up in the frighteningly modern present after his revisionist western in The Sisters Brothers, which used the American west to tell a complex relationship between two brothers and deconstruct masculinity.

Here - Paris, 13th District is another wonderful character study with a script co-written by Celine Sciamma - who was working on this whilst directing Petite Maman. The movie flows and sings with the skills of a natural talent for two creators who are at their best getting emotions out of characters and making them feel complex and real - and romance gives both sides enough motivations and stakes so they have their own agendas. The softness of it all feels skillfully done - making the most of the excellent Lucie Zhang, easily the MVP of the whole thing - and strong performances by Makita Samba and NoƩmie Merlant, a Sciamma regular. There's little in the way of simplicity and the various love squares can get a bit convoluted at times - but when the characters are as grounded as they are - it goes some way to offset the extra turns that the film takes.

The cinematography - shot in black and white - is breathtakingly spectacular. It eye catchingly moves through the rooftop bars and interiors, clubs and locals of Paris - it makes the city feel alive and acts as the stories' beating heart. The naturalistic shots of the city are always a plus - opening wide and keeping the scale short and intimate, it's a comparison that often can be made vs. big scale movies but it's just so refreshing to see films treat cities like actual characters - rather than being used for box-ticking on famous landmarks.

Little touches help realise the world of Paris, 13th District - and although this story could arguably have been told in colour without anything of value being lost, the little segways away from black and white feel welcome and it allows DOP Paul Guilhaume to show his craft - this is the second film that I've seen from him on the back of Heroes Don't Die and he's one of the best DOPs in the game right now - both films feel like almost every shot could make it onto One Perfect Shot's twitter account and it would feel earned, breathtakingly gorgeous. Everything adds up to a real, human - and moving spectacle.

A smart, intelligent romance that's perfect for fans of Noah Baumbach and Whit Stillman, Paris, 13th District is another triumph for Audiard - who only goes from strength to strength - giving audiences a high-art Paris romance for those who think Emily in Paris isn't enough. It's a statement on romance in a digital age without judgement or suspicion - taking into account the changes of the 21st century's attitude to dating - not unlike that of say, the films of Olivier Assayas - and remembers that the people at the heart of the online dating scene can be real people, too - with hopes, emotions and dreams.

Paris, 13th District is now playing in UK cinemas and can be rented on Curzon Home Cinema.

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