During the sixties and up to the mid-seventies, Paris was rocked by a vast urban renewal operation call Italy 13due to its development mainly around the Avenue d’Italie, in thirteenth «arrondissement“. The highlight of this controversial transformation is the residential neighborhood known as Les Olympiades, characterized by eight identical towers 104 meters high, three rectangular condominiums and a large pedestrian square elevated eight meters above the ground. For the creators of this complex, the modernism offered by the new buildings and the functionality of the services present should have attracted the attention of a population of young people, which did not, however, completely come true. The concise description of this urban context allows us to introduce the film in the best possible way Paris, 13Arr.Italian title that replaces the original Les Olympiadesdirected by Jacques Audiard.
Characterized by very different films in genre, themes and colors, Audiard’s filmography can in any case be summarized in two recurring and explanatory characteristics of his idea of cinema: a certain sensitivity towards the characters And the importance of the sets within the stories. Both are also found in this new feature film, presented in competition at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival and loosely based on comics Amber Sweet, Die on your feet And Hawaiian Getaway, from Adrian Tomine. Even more, these two characteristics are linked here deeply with each other, becoming one the completion of the other and allowing to Audiard to do singer of a generation at the crossroads, lost yet deeply imbued with vitality.
Paris, 13Arr. it opens right onto the tall buildings of the district just described. He frames them in great detail, allowing us on the one hand to become familiar with this environment as fascinating as it is impersonal and on the other to peek through the windows of the various apartments where the life of the residents takes place. Of this wide range of stories, Audiard chooses to tell us that of Émilie (Lucie Zhang)from Camille (Makita Samba) and, only later, of Nora (Noémie Merlant). Three young people on the threshold of thirty years struggling with work problems and, to a greater extent, sentimental problems. However different they may seem, on an ethnic and cultural level, these characters have a particularly significant element in common, namely the fear of facing reality that surrounds them and, consequently, also the emotions and wounds that can arise from it.
The district Les Olympiades then it seems the ideal place to hide, to escape from any possible emotional involvement and pain that would otherwise be difficult to bear. The buildings that were intended to be the same become the personification of that anonymity that appears so reassuring to the protagonists and Audiard’s choice to use a black and white photograph only increases this sense of indistinguishability, monotony and greyness. So here’s what Émilie she can pass unscathed from one sexual partner to another, communicating remotely thanks to her call-center work and delegating harrowing visits to her grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease to others. Similarly, Camille she escapes from any possible love affair as soon as the physical attraction fades, also postponing her doctoral research by engaging in trades that have nothing to do with her.
Nora, for its part, stands out in its need for protection by making this much more explicit. Initially open to the world and to new adventures, it will be increasingly inclined to research a comfortable distance, from which you can compare yourself with reality without actually having to face it. Thus was born his relationship with the pornstar Amber Sweet, a figure that, except for the ending, will always appear mediated by the computer screen. And it is precisely the latter that becomes a further manifestation of the speech carried out by Audiard. She is Amber Sweet to appear briefly in color within an otherwise totally black and white film. The only possible color is therefore that offered by the medium, which allows us to get in touch with the world but from a safe distance. When this distance is canceled, the weight of that contact to which you are no longer used becomes difficult to bear, leading to a breaking point that can actually be the beginning of a new path of self-discovery and of the world.
Even when this happens, however, it is difficult to leave behind all the fears you have felt up to that point in one fell swoop. The strongest affirmations continue to need mediation in order to be expressed, just like the “I love you” that one of the protagonists utters through an intercom, apparently unable to address those same words to their addressee, looking him in the eye. Their growth path is therefore far from being concluded, if it ever can be, and it is also in this desire not to provide easy solutions that the beauty of the film lies. Audiard. The director approaches a generation that is not his ownyet, together with the screenwriters Léa Mysium And Celine Sciamma, he composes a sincere and realistic story for his young peoplewhich becomes with a few simple scenes an ode to youthbetween music, materiality and introspection. A bewitching youth even when lost. That of Audiard it is in fact the gaze of those who feel profound attraction for what happens in front of the camera lens, of those who never judge the choices of the three protagonists, even when it seems impossible not to. Rather, he limits himself to photographing a reality where human relationships are increasingly superficial and sex is an act stripped of all meaning if not that of one’s own personal pleasure. Radical transformations, similar to those in which the neighborhood that hosts them was the protagonist and which are not the fault of those who experience them in practice, but of a social context that no longer provides indications on the paths to follow.
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