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Chinese Puzzle
USA, France, Belgium
Drama, Romance, Comedy
IMDB rating:
Cédric Klapisch
Audrey Tautou as Martine
Jochen Hägele as Hegel et Schopenhauer - les philosophes allemands
Flore Bonaventura as Isabelle de Groote - la babysitter
Pablo Mugnier-Jacob as Tom Rousseau
Amin Djakliou as Lucas
Margaux Mansart as Mia Rousseau
Benoît Jacquot as Monsieur Rousseau - le père de Xavier
Li Jun Li as Nancy
Kelly Reilly as Wendy
Romain Duris as Xavier Rousseau
Peter McRobbie as L'agent bureau immigration
Storyline: Xavier is now forty years old. So are Wendy, Isabelle and Martine. At forty you are supposed to be more mature and live a a steadier life than at twenty. But not Xavier. Well, to be fair, he has made some progress in the field of thoughtfulness (he has even become a writer) but as concerns his everyday life, it is far from well-ordered. To be totally honest it is not entirely Xavier's fault if his wife Wendy has suddenly left him for a new companion in New York and taken their two children with her. Realizing he can't stand living without them, Xavier decides to settle down in Big Apple in order to remain close to them. He finds a home in Chinatown and it does not take long before trouble comes his way.
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A very entertaining movie
A very entertaining movie. Romantic comedy. French with subtitles.

Inappropriate for young people - lots of bad language, sex, and one violent scene.

Excellent cast including Romain Duris, Audrey Tatou, Cecile De France, and Kelly Reilly.

40 year old author's life keeps getting more and more complicated - an ex-girlfriend and another ex-girlfriend and a gay girl friend and her girlfriends and the first one's kids and the second one's kids and the third one's kid - several of which are his - and the City of New York stars in in this one.

Try it. I liked it.
Wow! The Best Film So Far.
This movie really surprised me. Having loved L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE and connecting with the characters and then re-connecting with them in fun- filled Russian DOLLS, I was expecting the third film to slowly wind down their stories. After all, the characters are boring grown ups now, with kids and responsibilities, so how much more fun can they be. But to my surprise, this film was just as much fun, was just as full of joy and energy as the first films,

Having lived a life pretty close to the age of these characters, I felt an even deeper connection with these characters in this film. True, their lives have become much more complicated, but their stories have become richer, their worldview bigger and their lives deeper and so much more meaningful. Klapisch uses many of the same devices, many similar situations that made the first films memorable, but because the central characters are now so well fleshed out, we journey with these characters as fellow travelers, not only thru New York City (as we did in Barcelona and St. Petersburg) but thru life.

I hope this is not the end of the series. It would be a wonderful to travel to more places with these characters and wonder where Klapisch will take them (and us) next.
Growing up and moving away
Going to new places, especially when you are a bit older and are more likely to have settled down elsewhere, is difficult. About those difficulties, finding oneself and others (and love and work and ...) ... this is what this movie is about. It's mature in its thinking and might not be the entertainment some seek. But for what it is (and for the actors it has in it), it's really good.

It's not that much happens, but that is life (mostly, unless you are a special agent or whatnot). There is also nudity and god forbid intercourse. But there is also comedy and "betrayal" and situations you might encounter in life. And decisions ... decisions and more decisions! What is there in the end?
unconvincing entertainment
Writing the review of a movie two weeks later is an exercise that I should try more often. 'Casee-tete Chinois' is one of the two movies I have seen before I went to a vacation where other priorities pushed aside writing about movies. The last installment in the series of director Cedric Klapisch , starring Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou and Cecile De France was the least memorable of the two lighter summer comedies that I found appropriate for the mood and the times.

The film does have a lot of ingredients that would possibly make a success possible and even probable. A team of actors that now should not only know each other so well that the director needs only to raise an eyebrow in order to make things happen but who obviously enjoy acting together, and bringing on screen the romantic issues of their generation. A couple of kids who like almost any couple of kids steal the show as long as they are on screen and provide an emotional justification for the plot. Paris for a bit and Manhattan for most of the time - allegedly the best background for movies that directors and viewers could ask for.

And yet, the result is only half satisfying.

It may be that the plot of the French immigrant trying to settle in New York was brought to screen once too many? I can remember a few other such features (yes, some of the candidates to America may not have been French) starting with 'Green Card' starring Gérard Depardieu, and Andie MacDowell back in 1990. If the theme is back on screen maybe what is missing is some new and fresh angle in the infinite possibilities of approaching cultural gaps. Variations is a legitimate musical or cinematographic genre, but it needs to bring something new to be special. This film starts with a divorce, ends with a wedding, I am so happy to see Audrey Tautou happy and denying with a new film her intentions to quit acting, but the result is unconvincing entertainment. Maybe too many ingredients for a feel-good movie brought together do not necessarily make a good feel-good movie.
A witty charmer of a movie
Your partner leaves you after she found new love in a far away land. You want to be close to your children so you relocate and become prepared to take any crappy job and live in any type of shithole in order to get by. Sounds complicated?

In case the above is not an intricate enough, you become a sperm donor to help a same sex couple have a child.

In the midst of all this, an old flame comes into town but how can you think about romance? Then again why not? After all, our character does not lead a complicated life, he just...lives.

Incredibly witty with a mixture of European/American sense of humour, it provides a refreshing angle to life itself and how it keeps going with its ups and downs.
Audrey Tautou's pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese is stunning
This film tells the story of a French man who moves to New York because his ex partner takes their two children there and remarry an American man.

The premise of the film is very interesting, as I haven't thought about how globalised we are. I've been taking weekend overseas breaks for granted, watching foreign films, listening to foreign songs, keeping on touch with foreign friends with much ease. And the film reminds us that life back then was not as complicated. The comedy aspect is done quite well, especially the immigration inspection scene which is quite funny. However, the film takes a long time to reach that comedy stage, and actually the first half of the film is rather boring. One thing I'm truly impressed by is Audrey Tautou's pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese. It's very clear that she took a lot of effort in learning the words, because she even got the tones of every character right!
I've seen this movie yesterday and was disappointed. Especially since I really liked the first and second prequel. I am always turned off by a movie that is badly edited, badly scripted and does not really have a good story to tell. If one keeps close attention one will notice many illogical situations. Not everything needs to be logical in a movie but it is better not that obvious. For example, I encourage everybody to keep a close look for pregnant and non-pregnant women, for the main doors to the houses when children's are picked up and delivered, and for some awful dialog when somebody reveals "something very personal" nobody cares about. There is much more like this. This movie could easily feature as a bad TV soap opera. Just see for yourself. The only thing that kept me in the movie theater were a few scenes that are really funny and some camera work for which movies by Cédric Klapisch are famous for. By the way, the music is excellent.
An enjoyable and sweet film brought down by it's cliché self awareness!
What I did not realise when watching this was the fact that this is the third in a long running trilogy with the films 'Pot Luck' and 'Russian Dolls' being the previous films all directed by Cedric Klapisch.

When reading of this revelation after I viewed the film, it made perfect sense as to why there were pictures of the characters in three stages of ageing in the opening credit sequence and why there are characters who drop into the film suddenly like we are supposed to know them. However, as a person who did not see the two previous films, I did get to know the many characters quite well and I did care about them in what I thought was a surprisingly enjoyable film.

Romain Duris stars as Xavier, a man whose relationship with Wendy (Kelly Reilly) ends. Wendy meets a man in New York and takes the children with her. Xavier makes a snap decision to move to New York to be with his kids. He initially stays with his lesbian friend Isabelle (Cecile De France) who moved to New York to be with her lover, Ju (Sandrine Holt), who is also having an affair with her babysitter who is also named Isabelle (Flore Bonaventura). Also, Xavier's past lover, Martine (Audrey Tautou) keeps dropping into New York for work related reasons and meets up with Xavier a few times. Could they start to re-kindle what they had before?

The great thing about Chinese Puzzle is it's portrait of New York which it shows in all it's racial and sexual diversity, but not feeling forced or annoyingly politically correct. It felt more like this is the reality of New York being the crowded and multi cultural city that it is. It is refreshing to see New York portrayed in that way as opposed to post card aesthetics used by many, especially Woody Allen. It also shows the difficulties Xavier faces trying to stay in New York and fitting into a strange city. He meets interesting people, gets cash in hand jobs as his holiday visa deems it illegal for him to be in employment, and he gets married to an Asian-American girl in order to stay in the country. It is compelling to watch his character settle in, develop and grow in his new place of residence and how he gets involved with the main characters around him in these intertwining stories. The stories were interesting and it had me routing for the characters, who despite their flaws, are genuinely believable and likable characters. What did end up annoying me about the film was the fact that it went for the cliché narrative-within-a-narrative structure. While the story is unfolding, Xavier is writing a book about his experiences and his agent is commenting on his ideas. When the story threads culminate into a last minute dash to get the girl who is taking a bus out of New York for good, the agent comments on how the ending is too happy and cliché. For me, this self awareness is worse than just having the cliché ending. For the most part, it was enjoyable and it meant well.

Check out my film review blog -
Xavier and friends in The Big Apple
As an avowed fan of both The Spanish Apartment (2002) and Russian Dolls (2005), it was with much anticipation that I awaited the arrival of the third film in the series – Chinese Puzzle – into Australian cinemas. Of course, such anticipation can often lead to disappointment, but I am pleased to report that this wasn't the case in this instance, with Chinese Puzzle proving a more than worthy next chapter in the lives of this disparate bunch of characters. Written and directed by Cedric Klapisch, Chinese Puzzle is a truly cosmopolitan film with a predominantly European and Asian cast inhabiting a story set amid the hustle and bustle of contemporary New York. From the moment the opening credit sequence began – comprising images of the various key characters from all three films over a fabulously funky soundtrack – I had a smile on my face.

For those who have seen the previous two films, it is a familiarity with these flawed but utterly likable characters that make the film so enjoyable. The narrative centres on Xavier (Romain Duris) who, at the beginning of the film, is living in France with girlfriend Wendy (Kelly Reilly) and their two kids. However, when Wendy announces that she and the kids are uprooting for a life in New York with new beau John (Peter Hermann), the story kicks into gear. Desperate to remain a part of his children's lives, Xavier follows in hot pursuit and temporarily moves in with lesbian pal Isabelle (Cecile De France), who has also recently relocated to the Big Apple and shares an apartment with her girlfriend Ju (Sandrine Holt). Xavier finds himself in the midst of all manner of predicaments. He needs to find a job and somewhere to live and is under increasing pressure from his Paris-based editor to finish his new novel. Complicating matters further is the fact that Isabelle is pregnant thanks to a sperm donation from Xavier.

In an effort to secure American citizenship, Xavier enters into a marriage with Nancy (Li Jun Li), the niece of a man to whom he lends assistance during a road rage attack. All the while, Xavier is complicit in an affair between Isabelle and a babysitter (also named Isabelle) and, when old flame Martine (a beguiling Audrey Tautou) arrives in town with her two children in tow, it seems as though everything might come crumbling down for our hapless protagonist. There are wonderfully comedic moments galore, along with splashes of sentiment and introspection as Xavier takes stock of his own life and desperately tries to prevent everything from falling apart. Duris is terrific in the lead role, presenting Xavier as desperate yet charming with a genuine affection for the various people in his life. The film has plenty to say about love, friendship and the passing of time. All the main characters have, for the most part, matured both physically and emotionally and the friendships have endured across time and space.

At times, the film seems like a paean to the city of New York as much as anything, with Klapisch showing us parts of the city that are rarely seen in the myriad action films and romantic comedies that emanate from here. Not only do we see this other side of New York, but Klapisch seems to want us to truly appreciate the sights, sounds, energy and idiosyncrasies of the place, all of which add to the charm of the film. Whilst all the lead performances are fine, as you would expect given their familiarity with their characters, those in supporting roles also shine. In particular, both Holt and Li are fabulously understated but effective in their portrayals, while Jason Kravits is funny as Xavier's two-bit lawyer. It is also great to see child characters that are a far cry from the whining, petulant monsters that we typically see in Hollywood productions. Throw in some magic realism by way of fantasy sequences that summon famous European philosophers to impart words of wisdom upon Xavier and you have a thoroughly delightful cinematic experience.

More than anything, it is the various implications and complications of the relationships that make Chinese Puzzle such a treat. Whilst the ending does seemingly wrap things up somewhat neatly, it also leaves open the possibility of more to come from this group and I would certainly welcome an opportunity to spend more time in their company.
Romaine Holiday
Because of his involvement with Un Air de famille - he directed a great screenplay by Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri - I'm prepared to overlook any flawed movies by Cedric Klapish so that despite an aversion to Romaine Duris I did, in fact, see both L'Auberge Espagnol and Les Poupees Russe, both of which feature a melange of characters at different (2002, 2005) times in their lives, and I didn't really care for either of them. This third outing reunites Duris with Audrey Tautao, Cecile de France and Kelly Reilly, all now more or less forty years old and maybe I'm mellowing but I actually enjoyed it in the main, even Duris is less swaggering and acting like God's gift as is his usual wont. This isn't the same as saying that I'll rush out and buy the DVD the minute it appears in the shops but it is a pleasant and fairly harmless diversion.
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