Review by Dan Skip Allen
Jacques Audiard is the acclaimed director of films such as Rust & Bone, A Prophet, and most recently, The Sisters Brothers. His films have been very well received by critics and fans alike. He has also won the Palme d'Or for the best film at the Cannes Film Festival. It's safe to say he has done it all in his career thus far, with his filmography ranging from Western to romance and everything in between. His latest film Paris, 13th District, falls back on his country land and the city where he's from: Paris, France.
This film focuses on a group of people featuring a young Chinese woman (Lucie Zhang) who lives in a lovely apartment. She rents her extra room out to a teacher (Makita Samba). They don't take long before the boundaries of renter and rentee are crossed. Another character in the film is a woman (Noémie Merlant, Portrait of a Woman on Fire) trying to be a student but eventually settling on becoming a real estate agent instead. These three characters' lives are intertwined throughout the length of the film.
In this film, Audiard falls back on his expertise in this neighborhood of Paris, France, and decides to do a smaller, more intimate story instead of the crime and violent stories he's done in the past. These three character arcs intertwine quite nicely. He weaves in the more personal aspects of these characters to make them more relatable to the audience watching. These characters have their ups and downs within the context of the film, which makes them and their lives fascinating to watch.
The film is based on short stories by Adrian Tomine, a cartoonist from Sacramento, California. He is most famous for his ongoing comic book series Optic Nerve. "Amber Sweet," "Killing and Dying," "Summer Blonde," and "Hawaiian Getaway" are the three short stories the film consists of. They all meld together in the movie very nicely. Tomine has shown that he knows how to turn this medium into one that can tell real stories about real people, relationships, and problems they have. This film deals with these topics very adeptly.
Audiard decided to use black and white as in the comics strips. We see it as just that. How the story unfolds is black and white as well. The lives of these people are anything but that, though. They have relations with each other that are sensual, graphic, and raw. Like relationships, these characters get on each other's nerves, and they break up and get back together again. I indeed like the depiction of how these people interact with each other. It is a true romantic soap opera of a film to some extent.
Audiard adapts these stories into a very tight romantic film. The character development throughout is masterfully directed. The script by Audiard and others shows the characters at their most intimate as well as their struggles and personal best and worst. The medium of comics and graphic novels have proven they can be shown in a great light, such as in this film. The cast successfully brings those stories to life and does a solid job with this material.
Paris, 13th District hits theaters and VOD on April 15.