Les Olympiades – Les Olympiades, Paris 13th (2021)
Directed by: Jacques Audiard | 104 minutes | drama | Actors: Noémie Merlant, Makita Samba, Lucie Zhang, Jehnny Beth, Camille Léon-Fucien, Oceane Cairaty, Anaïde Rozam, Pol White, Rong-Ying Yang, Geneviève Doang, Xing Xing Cheng
Jacques Audiard is known for drama films that address social and societal themes. The French director’s oeuvre is characterized by realistic dialogues and unexpected explosions of violence. He is a filmmaker who has one foot in the present and the other in the past. As a result, his films are both topical and timeless. With ‘Les Olympiades’, Audiard returns to his French roots after his first English-language film ‘The Sisters Brothers’ (2018) and delivers an ensemble film about four young people in search of love and meaning in modern Paris.
Although the core of ‘Les Olympiades’ shows similarities with the majority of Audiard’s repertoire, his latest film turns out much less well. That is not due to the acting (the cast members clearly do their best), nor to the decoration (the film was shot in atmospheric black and white). The real problems of ‘Les Olympiades’ stem from the script.
In the film, we follow four main characters whose paths cross over a period of several months. They get to know each other, exchange beliefs and have sex. Lots of sex… Suddenly Audiard takes a clear step back. While many of his other films continue to surprise because of their story structure, ‘Les Olympiades’ is mainly repetitive in nature. The events shown feel trivial after a while, after which we start to hope for a serious upheaval. Unfortunately, the film always gets stuck in its initial setup.
It has gradually become a genre in itself: films in which we follow the worries of lonely people in large cities. With ‘Les Olympiades’ Audiard adds little new to this type of film. ‘Yi Yi’ by Edward Yang and ‘Lost in Translation’ by Sofia Coppola are more impressive in this context. And if we want to stay in Paris we can also talk about Mathieu Kassovitz’s ever merciless ‘La Haine’. In terms of style, these are three completely different types of movies. But what they have in common is that they manage to capture the turbulent life in a metropolis, with all its hectic and reclusiveness, in a beautifully subtle way. Jacques Audiard also has this ability. However, with ‘Les Olympiades’ he falls short.