Jacques Audiard’s new film is entertaining, but gets lost in its amorphous claims.

Reviews by Joyce Glasser Paris 13th district (March 4, 2022) Cert. 18, 105 minutes.

After The sisters brothersAudiard’s first English-language film, and his misguided adaptation of a grandiose Western novel, France’s most acclaimed director today, (A prophet, the beat my heart skipped), not only returns to France, but to a densely populated, trendy Parisian neighborhood, Les Olympiades (part of the French title). Perhaps Audiard’s most ambitious film to date seeks to capture how people in their late 20s and early 30s live, work and most importantly love today. When life, work, and love seem to coalesce in a film about instantaneous sexual gratification followed by the residual despondency of sexual relationships, Audiard claims his film has something of a moral tale to it.

Based on the American comic book collection by Adrian Tomine, Les Olympiads: Paris 13 is also inspired by Eric Rohmer’s seminal “New Wave” film, My night at Maud’s, another film where characters (as here mainly two women and a man who are attracted to them) talk a lot. It is the third in Rohmer’s series of Six Moral Tales and Audiard takes on the challenge of updating this adored film. But if the quality and content of Maud’s conversations is very different, so is the manifestation of desire and love, which is strikingly left to the imagination and all the more sexy.

Les Olympiades is a high-rise neighborhood in the 13th arrondissement, or arrondissement, built after the 1968 Paris Olympics, so each tower is named after a city where the games took place. Despite this peculiarity and the shot in washed-out gray tones that capture ’70s Paris, there’s no real sense of place here. The characters could be anywhere, which might be the point since they are young people in transit to unknown destinations.

In a cosmopolitan area with an international outlook, it’s no surprise that Audiard’s main characters now represent a cross section of society. Emilie (Lucie Zhang) is a caustic, impulsive, brash, and extroverted French woman of Taiwanese descent who claims to be brilliant but lives rent-free in her grandmother’s apartment and is drawn to low-paying, unrewarding jobs that she struggles to keep. She needs a good psychiatrist to fix her, and Audiard shows no desire to try. It is only late in the film that we learn that Emilie neglected her visits to her generous grandmother, who is dying of dementia in a nursing home.

Emilie is about to be fired from her last job in a call center because she has no knowledge of human nature. Girded in Saran Wrap to lose weight, she interviews roommates to make up for her loss of income. Enter Camille (Makita Samba), a confident, attractive high school teacher who quits his job to focus on his PhD.

Although Emilie claims she wants a female roommate, it’s Camille’s body and charm that gets him the room. One could think of the French title The Olympiades as a reference to their sexual acrobatics as well as the neighborhood. Although the two initially spend the night in one room, the relationship ends when Camille decides on a separate room policy and invites another attractive woman (black like him) home.

If Emilie confused sex with love, Camille has a decidedly cold and pragmatic approach to sex. When Emilie sets new rules for entertaining, Camille moves in with his new lover, leaving Camille with no husband or income.

Like Emilie, Camille has family in Paris and his relationship with them is just as revealing as in Emilie’s case. Camille pays a rare visit to his father (Pol White) and his much younger, teenaged sister Eponine (Camille Léon-Fucien), who is overweight and stutters, indicating trust issues. His father praises Eponine’s foray into stand-up comedy and awaits Camille’s encouragement. Instead, Camille erupts in a tirade about how he hates stand-up comedy, causing Eponine to leave the room in tears.

The structure of the interwoven stories continues with Nora (Noémie Merlant) who is the most likeable of all the lost souls. She recently came to the big city to escape an abusive relationship with a relative she worked with as a real estate agent in a provincial town.

Life as a mature college student is difficult enough until she shows up at a party in a blonde wig and is mistaken for online sex chat star Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth). Bullied and bullied (by the surprisingly childish, conservative students), Nora drops out of school and finds a job as a real estate agent, where her skills are in direct contrast to those of a new colleague, Camille, to raise extra money while working on his thesis. While he is a novice, Nora succumbs to the advances of this charming, handsome teacher after seeing his relationship with a former student. We have to wonder why Camille is such an inspiration to this former student and so insensitive to his own sister?

It’s debatable who gets tired of whom first, but while Nora grows disillusioned with Camille, she finds increasing solace in her online conversations with the real Amber Sweet. Nora had contacted Amber to help deal with this seemingly disastrous case of mistaken identity, but the decisions turn out to be a happy accident.

The monochrome cinematography highlights the differences in skin tone when the nude bodies are in action, drawing our attention (in an overly emphatic manner) not only to Paris as a mixed-race melting pot but, in Nora’s story of same-sex attraction, to the diversity of the modern sexual desire.

None of this feels new or profound, and our lack of sympathy for the characters, with the exception of Nora, makes them difficult to relate to. While Emilie in particular seems to punish herself with her self-destructive lifestyle and Camille appears pathologically unstable, we never get beneath the surface or feel like we’ve understood ourselves or others. The explicit sex and nudity scenes might draw a young audience, but it feels as shallow as the characters remain lost souls to the end.

in the My night at Maud’s The older characters may also be lost souls, but interestingly they all have stable callings (doctoral, engineer, biology student) and career paths and the income and independence to live on their own. Employment and housing may have been a fixed variable in provincial France in 1969, but one of the most flexible variables in Paris in the 1970s, as it is today. This state of flux is brilliantly showcased in Audiard’s film, which to that extent succeeds in updating Rohmer’s far more satisfying film.

Jacques Audiard’s new film is entertaining, but gets lost in its amorphous claims.

Source link Jacques Audiard’s new film is entertaining, but gets lost in its amorphous claims.

Back to top button