The Olympics: Audiard reinvents itself in a generational film [critique]

Three girls, a boy and a whole host of possibilities. Audiard tells the story of today’s thirties in a romantic gesture that was unprecedented for him. Electric and divisive, an ideal cocktail for a place on the charts?

We can feast to see an author digging film after film the same groove, to strive for perfection. With The Olympics, Jacques Audiard signs a gesture at the antipodes. That of overturning the table and splitting the armor. To put his title back on the line but going to battle on new grounds. He who knows so well how to question and sublimate virilism on the screen through films where without women being absent – nor covered with prizes – (Emmanuelle Devos, Linh Danh Pham, Marion Cotillard …) – the tone was given by male characters all the more powerful as he took care to explore all the weaknesses, On my lips to the Sisters Brothers Passing by The Beat That My Heart Skipped or Bone rust.

The Audiard vintage 2021 therefore has unique flavors. Those of sentimental comedy where, by adapting five short stories by the American comic book author Adrian Tomine, he draws up, through the stories of the heart and ass of his protagonists, the sensitive portrait of the generation of thirties, crossed by a great loneliness (while the other has never seemed so accessible, just a click away) and forced to forge a shell of cynicism to stand up to the succession of disillusions and doors slamming unceremoniously in their mouths . There are four of them here. Emile sleeps with his roommate Camille, who has fallen for Nora, fascinated by a camgirl whose resemblance to her has earned him devastating digital harassment. Three women and a man. Friends or lovers, often both in concert, embarked on a ballad on the Tender Map, like an endless roller coaster.

Located in the district of the 13th arrondissement of Paris which gives it its title, The Olympics is experienced as a sentimental and carnal fresco of modern times which is fully in line with today’s social reality. Economic dead ends, crisis of vocation of the teaching staff, collateral damage of brutal sexism constitute the background of this story written six hands by Audiard with Céline Sciamma and Léa Mysius (Ava). But without ever stifling the essentials: these words of love that struggle to be pronounced, these bodies that enjoy the time of a few minutes but unable to end the night in the same bed, for fear of becoming too attached and pay the price later.

Undoubtedly the mechanics are less fluid than usual, undoubtedly the pure scriptwriting gesture seems less framed. But even if the film divided within our editorial staff, it is also this generation at a distance and with complacency by sounding the air of it was better before. Surrounded by an entirely new team (script, image, music …), he takes the pulse, follows the rhythm. His characters live their daily lives like an obstacle course. His story embraces these upheavals while refusing easy pessimism. He has them under his skin and loves his characters in what they can be as endearing as they are unbearable. He sublimates them with the magnificent black and white image created by Paul Guilhaume (the op ‘chief of the documentary Teenage girls) and the bewitching soundtrack of Rone (César 2021 for Night has come). And he takes great pleasure in showing in his home stretch the smiles that come back, the looks that light up again. By assuming a blue flower side because it is precisely that of his characters, even if they try to bury it as best they can in them because they are incapable of assuming it.

A new wind is blowing in the Audiard cinema. Never has his camera been so sensual, never has he been felt so free. But one element remains unchanged: the quality of its leadership. The man who revealed Tahar Rahim, Reda Kateb and Karim Leklou here allows Lucie Zhang to tumble into the small world of French cinema with unstoppable energy and a sense of rhythm, to Makita Samba to confirm what we had perceived at him in Lover for a day or My friend Victoria and to Noémie Merlant and Jehnnny Beth to take on a further dimension. When you love actors, watching an Audiard film is a joy at all times. So much there is in him a sense of the right casting and of playing together, where the exchange takes precedence over the performance.

Romanesque, romantic, connected to its time and yet at the crossroads of yesterday’s peaks like Chungking Express or Manhattan, The Olympics feels like love at first sight. We can totally miss it but when it reaches you, you instantly forget its flaws, its approximations, its tics of realization a little supported to retain only those hearts and these bodies that you miss as soon as the end word appears on the screen .

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