Les Olympiades — Love and Technology in Black and White Paris
The film starts by showing us the arrondissement where the entire film will be taking place and the buildings, Les Olympiades that the film is named. With some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve seen in a while, the film shirks traditional shots of Parisian romantic life to explore love in all its grittiness in the city. The film centres around four characters in and around their late twenties and early thirties that are all in one way or another trying to figure out what they want from love. With the help of co-screenwriters Celine Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Petite Maman) and Léa Mysius (Ava), Audiard crafts a story that generally tells four different tales of love in the 21st century. With brilliant cinematography by Paul Guilhaume, Paris 13th, District plays as a very honest set of love stories.
Our characters are Emilie (Lucie Zhang), who works in a call centre, even though she has a university degree, but simply does not feel interested in doing jobs out there. She meets Camille (Makita Samba) by chance as he visits her apartment to become her roommate, and the two swiftly begin a complicated relationship with Emilie wanting a relationship while Camille is clear that he wants nothing of the sort. As the relationship between the characters sours and sparks up over and over, we are introduced to Nora (Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Noemie Merlant) who is a law student from Bordeaux, who is new to the city and excited to be there. She is also very thrilled to be studying again. Almost immediately, she is bullied by her fellow students as she is misidentified as camgirl Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth). She drops out of university and finds work at a real estate agency that Camille is managing. While Nora makes it clear at the beginning that she wants everything to be professional, the two slowly become attracted to each other and start a relationship. However, things between them remain distant and there’s a clear divide between the two. At the same time, Emilie is taking full advantage of sex apps as she continues to navigate her family life with her grandmother in a care home suffering from Alzheimer’s and her being short with her mother as she calls from Taiwan. Nora turns to Amber, interested in wanting to know more about her doppelganger, and the two spark up a relationship.
The film uses technology, by way as sex apps and webcams to show audiences different ways of love, and love that can be more attributed to the 21st century. Nora and Amber fall for each other over Skype after she ends things with Camille and we see beautiful gestures of love such as falling asleep over Skype.
All the while Camille, a doctoral candidate is struggling with grief and figuring out what he wants as he gets into relationships with various women, he is clearly trying to figure himself out.
The film gives each character, besides possibly Amber Sweet wonderfully original stories and original feelings with the characters twisting and turning throughout their decision-making as we all do as humans. While there are some weak points with the aforementioned lack of screen time in my opinion of Amber Sweet, the film manages to craft beautiful love stories with a kickass soundtrack and beautiful cinematography.
In an hour and 40 minutes, Paris, 13th District shows us many ins and outs of love in a technological age while also remaining wonderfully human throughout.