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Jacques Audiard’s "Paris 13th District" ("Les Olympiades”) is lighter than his usual fare

Reviewed by Robin Menken
Jacques Audiard’s "Paris 13th District" ("Les Olympiades”) is lighter than his usual fare. Weaving the lives of his four main characters with a sort of Alan Rudolph touch. he focuses on Paris millennials, a vain, dispassionate bunch. Think of it as chamber music about their loves, fights, ambitions and, most crucially, their loneliness, exacerbated by relationship-free hook-up apps.
Paul Guilhaume's exquisite black and white cinematography pans across the neighborhood buildings (Les Olympiades high rises) revealing night time scenes as detailed as Rear Window. He pushes into an apartment to reveal a lounging nude Émilie crooning into a mic. Soon she's joined by charismatic Camille (Makita Samba.) A flashback shows us how Camille became her accidental roomie and friend with benefits. 
In fact, Émilie and Camille spend so much time 'nekkid', that Audiard reputedly had them rehearse in the nude.
Phone center worker Émilie (Lucie Zhang), lives in her grandmother's apartment, supplementing her entry level wages with room rent. Granny (Xing Xing Cheng) is parked in assisted living and not doing well. 
Émilie is the screwup of her Taiwanese family.  All impulse. She's supposed to visit her grandmother but she can't be bothered. When she realizes Granny doesn't recognize her, she talks her latest roommate into visiting her instead, for a break on the rent.
Émilie's fired from the call center for inappropriate remarks, has to suffer endless comparisons between her deadbeat life and her successful Surgeon older sister, and falls back on a waitress job... even that she cuts out on for a quickie App hook up. Returning to work, jazzed from her sex-capade, she dances through the restaurant to the delight of the diners. It's a Godardian moment.
School teacher Camille is a passionate lover, and soon Émilie is craving exclusivity, but Camille, who's leaving teaching to run a real estate office, develops an interest in his replacement teacher Stéphanie (Oceane Cairaty), who begins spending the night. Émilie seethes with jealousy and tricks and Camille moves out.
Nora (Noémie Merlant-Portrait Of A Lady On Fire), a go-getter real estate agent, decides to go back to school to avoid moving back to her home town and her inappropriate relationship with her uncle.
Hoping to fit in with her much younger classmates
her party time make over transforms her into a temporary look alike of online sex cam model Amber Sweet (Rocker Jehnny Beth from the band Savages, in a strong performance.)
At the party, Nora's relentlessly cruised by the boys who all recognize "Amber" from her online site. The constant attention and bullying drives her out of academia and back to Real Estate where she essentially runs the office that clueless Camille agreed to operate for his friend.
Nora, who beefs up the lackluster neighborhood office,  is soon closing multiple "exclusives." Camille and Nora circle each other, all business, until, in La Ronde fashion,  they fall into bed.
Fascinated by the response she received in Amber's signature blond wig, Nora buys chat time with Amber and bit by bit they develop an intimate relationship. When "Amber" stops charging Nora and starts Skyping privately, their exploration heats up. At first reluctant to exchange names, soon Amber is asking to keep their Skype session open while she sleeps, so she doesn't wake up alone. 
The script by Audiard, Nicolas Livecchi, Léa Mysius and Céline Sciamma is based on a series of California-based stories by Japanese American Graphic Novelist and New Yorker cartoonist Adrian Tomine, all relocated to Paris. I don't know Tomine's stories but the material serves Audiard well, luring him and us into this very modern subculture.
The piece is sexy, blithe, and to this reviewer, a tad annoying. It’s also a portrait of a lesser-known Arrondissement, the 13th-the long time home to Chinese and Vietnamese communities.
All in all, Audiard keeps out attention.

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