Scene from film

Paris, 13th District today. Émilie Wong (Lucie Zhang) meets Camille Germain (Makita Samba) who's attracted to Nora Ligier (Noémie Merlant), who crosses the path of Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth). Three girls and a boy redefine what modern love is.

"Paris, 13th District" is foremost a film about youth, but they're no longer teenagers. The four main characters are young adults who already have some life experience, and who are going to meet each other and love one another. They all have a social existence; they aren’t hermits. Three of them are in their thirties and have already dealt with difficulties in finding housing and/or a job, are going through professional crises and are unable to settle down in their sexuality let alone a relationship.

They change their lifestyle while they’ve only just become self-sufficient. This is where they're like the lost souls in Adrian Tomine’s stories. The character Camille, a young high school teacher, is already disillusioned by the school system. Camille is more grounded in life. We see more of his family. Camille teaches literature and is having a professional crisis. In his relationship with others, he's both charming and insufferable. He’s quick-witted but knows it and likes to hear himself talk. He’s interested in women, his love life, and his freedom. But through blindly pursuing these interests, he ends up getting stuck in his own trap.

Emilie, a young French-Chinese woman, is torn between her family’s ambitions for her and her freedom as a young woman. She has just graduated from the prestigious Science Po School, but has decided to make a living through menial jobs (operator in a call center, waitress). She's brilliant, but wastes a lot of time fighting against her family’s expectations, pettily provoking them. After spending many years studying at university, Emilie has chosen, deliberately it seems, to let herself flounder from one menial job to the next.

Nora is 33. She has come to Paris to go back to school after a painful past with her family. She’s escaped from the provinces and her profession as a real estate agent to go back to school at Paris-Tolbiac University. She’s a woman who doesn’t realize she’s beautiful and intelligent. She thinks she’s boring, but in reality she’s just uncomfortable in her skin.

Cam girl Amber will for the first time reach out to the other side of the screen. Amber, who's frank, courageous, and world-wise, will teach her what freedom means in every way possible. Nora will be deeply and ultimately changed by her. Amber, who's only seen through computer and telephone screens and who lives far from Paris, is in fact the most influential character in the story. Turning Nora’s life upside down, through a domino effect she also ends up changing the lives of Camille and Emilie.

At the very beginning there's Rohmer’s "My Night At Maud’s" and a film about love discourse, or more exactly, when and how does one speak about love today? In "My Night At Maud’s," two men and a woman, but especially a man and a woman, talk all night long. They speak about everything, themselves, naturally, but also God, Blaise Pascal, the falling snow, provincial life, the charm of young Catholic girls, and so on. In the end, while all the signs of a mutual attraction have been shown and acknowledged, while they should fall into each other’s arms and love one another, they don’t. Why? Because everything has been said and the seduction, eroticism, and love have all been channeled through words alone. Following it up would have been superfluous.

To begin with, there are Adrian Tomine’s three graphic novels. We like their brevity, their discreet depth, their characters filled with whimsy and melancholy, the skillful use of ellipsis and finally how they consider each human being to be a small unfathomable abyss. In linking comedy with Tomine’s work, we've a fluctuating story mirroring Tomine’s characters.

A discreetly constructed film whose heroes, however, would be constantly talking. How would this situation play out today when we're offered just the opposite? What actually happens in our era of Tinder and sleeping together on the first date? Can there be an amorous discourse in these conditions? Yes, of course, how could we possibly doubt that. But at what moment does it come into play? What are the words and the protocols? That's one of the main narrative threads of Paris, 13th District.

The Olympiades is a neighborhood of high-rises in the middle of Paris’ 13th arrondissement between the rue de Tolbiac and Avenue d’Ivry. This neighborhood came to be through a renovation program that took place in the 1970s hence it's highly visible architectural homogeneity. As a tribute to the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, each tower is named after a city that hosted the Olympic Games, Sapporo. The Olympiades is a very original, exotic, lively neighborhood with an impressive social and cultural blend. The film’s characters live there and cross paths there. The term 'Olympiades' also is a reference to athletic feats, and if you've a bit of a dirty mind, it can also refer to the character's sexual achievements.

Tomine’s narratives are concise, close to reality, with characters who are lost and on a quest for something they can’t really define. Further, his drawings are very simple and impactful, they don’t distract from the narrative and seem readymade for cinema, almost like a storyboard. And then, a little like Eric Rohmer, Adrian Tomine is a moralist, at the end of these stories, his characters seem to have learned something about life and themselves. But at what moment does this discourse come into play? What are the words and the protocols? That is one of the main narrative threads of "Paris, 13th District". In the end, it could be said that "Paris, 13th District" is in a way like a contemporary period film. And then, naturally, there's the visual reference to Woody Allen’s "Manhattan."

Opens April 15 at the Gateway Film Center

Showtimes Columbus, OH
Sat 16 Apr
Sun 17 Apr
Mon 18 Apr
Tue 19 Apr
Wed 20 Apr
Thu 21 Apr
Gateway Film Center
1550 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43201, United States

Drexel Theatres
2254 East Main Street, Columbus, OH 43209, United States