In Review

Film review: Paris, 13th District

A story of love and sex set amid the tower blocks of the 13th arrondissement

This “shimmering romantic drama” comes with a “strong sex” warning from the British Board of Film Classification, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph, “and I’d have to agree: the sex here really is rather impressive”. The film celebrates “physical human connection” as a source of “pleasure and solace”; this being a French film, it also presents sex as “just, you know, extremely hot”. Set amid the tower blocks of the 13th arrondissement, the story presents episodes from the ever-shifting romantic lives of four young Parisians.We have Émilie (Lucie Zhang), a Chinese-French science graduate stuck in dead-end jobs; her tenant and eventual lover Camille (Makita Samba); law student Nora (Noémie Merlant); and Amber (Jehnny Beth), the only one with a stable job – who works in adult entertainment. The characters’ lives “intersect in thrilling and surprising ways”, and while the film brims with “naughty bits”, Paul Guilhaume’s “monochrome photography” draws out the “beauty” of the sexually uninhibited scenes – “honestly”. 

I was interested by “how many of the film’s most genuinely intimate moments play out at one remove”, said Mark Kermode in The Observer. This “playfully sensuous” film asks “what happens to slow-burn intimacy when mediated by the urgency of the online world”. The characters live out their lives in isolated boxes, their phones and computer screens their only constant companions. But “perceptive and realistic” as the film is, said Edward Porter in The Sunday Times, I couldn’t muster much real interest in these people. For all their vigour, they struck me as “faintly dull”.

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