Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Chinese Puzzle

Rapid-fire love letter to New York and love itself reunites four of the stars from filmmaker Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy that began over a decade ago with the hit L’Auberge Espagnole. In this final installment, the once twenty-somethings have followed different paths to New York, where they confront personal and professional issues that test their friendship.

May 15, 2014

-By Doris Toumarkine


In many ways, Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy is not unlike Richard Linklater’s “Before” bumpy-romance trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Yes, Linklater focuses on only two smitten characters and Klapisch has followed several more, but they’re all the same age and with similar goals. And both Hawke and Chinese Puzzle’s Romain Duris play published authors, a profession maybe signaling certain sensibilities and susceptibilities.

But the French trilogy is a much lighter dish, more quirky and humorous and less probing. Life happens and Klapisch allows his characters to ride smoother waves. If Linklater’s trilogy tickles the brain and tugs at emotions and self-awareness, Klapisch’s hits the funny bone. Chinese Puzzle isn’t deep, but it’s a blast that will provide fans of the earlier films with a grand time.

Much credit goes to the regulars: stars Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cécile de France and Kelly Reilly, whose characters all met as roommates at that Barcelona “auberge.” Now, real life has weighed in and all find themselves in a variety of challenging situations in New York, whether downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Again, the linchpin is Xavier (Duris), a struggling writer first seen in Paris, who has a demanding editor and a broken marriage as wife Wendy (Reilly) has dumped him for someone wealthy in New York and taken their children.

Xavier instinctively heads to New York to recover his muse and visit the kids. He temporarily stays with pal Isabelle (Cécile de France) from the auberge days, who, now gay, lives with her Chinese-American partner Ju (Sandrine Holt) in Brooklyn. Ju eventually helps Xavier settle into the serviceable Chinatown apartment she rented when in college. Xavier returns the favor by supplying the couple with semen so they can have a child via artificial insemination. He expedites the task by scanning pictures of women together in a porn magazine.

As for his own kids, Kelly allows visits, but she’s cold and her significant other and Xavier are like oil and water. Complications mount: Xavier struggles as a bike messenger but learns it would be best for him to marry to obtain his visa to stay in the U.S. Isabelle and Ju have their baby, but Isabelle and the babysitter get something going and Xavier must play interference so Ju doesn’t find out. A favor Xavier does a Chinese-American cabbie gives him the opportunity to marry, but the stern immigration grunt who must determine that true love is the ballast for the marriage brings trouble.

And Martine (Audrey Tautou), from the “auberge” years, arrives in New York on a business trip (we are asked to believe she’s now a Chinese-speaking, big-deal international real estate exec) and stays with pal Xavier. But Martine has deeper designs.

Chinese Puzzle betrays Klapisch’s curious interest in things Chinese and lesbian, as much screen time is given to both, especially Isabelle’s dalliance with the sitter. Klapisch’s latter obsession flirts with exploitation, but maybe it’s just the French in him or the director suspecting what his audiences want.

Beautifully shot, Chinese Puzzle delivers a sparkling French present in its colorful portrait of a New York off the sightseer’s beaten path. The film is also distinguished by snippets of amusing animation and special effects (Hegel and Schopenhauer show up to guide Xavier) that never interfere with Xavier’s unfolding adventures.

Click here for cast and crew information.


Film Review: Chinese Puzzle

Rapid-fire love letter to New York and love itself reunites four of the stars from filmmaker Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy that began over a decade ago with the hit L’Auberge Espagnole. In this final installment, the once twenty-somethings have followed different paths to New York, where they confront personal and professional issues that test their friendship.

May 15, 2014

-By Doris Toumarkine


In many ways, Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy is not unlike Richard Linklater’s “Before” bumpy-romance trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Yes, Linklater focuses on only two smitten characters and Klapisch has followed several more, but they’re all the same age and with similar goals. And both Hawke and Chinese Puzzle’s Romain Duris play published authors, a profession maybe signaling certain sensibilities and susceptibilities.

But the French trilogy is a much lighter dish, more quirky and humorous and less probing. Life happens and Klapisch allows his characters to ride smoother waves. If Linklater’s trilogy tickles the brain and tugs at emotions and self-awareness, Klapisch’s hits the funny bone. Chinese Puzzle isn’t deep, but it’s a blast that will provide fans of the earlier films with a grand time.

Much credit goes to the regulars: stars Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cécile de France and Kelly Reilly, whose characters all met as roommates at that Barcelona “auberge.” Now, real life has weighed in and all find themselves in a variety of challenging situations in New York, whether downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Again, the linchpin is Xavier (Duris), a struggling writer first seen in Paris, who has a demanding editor and a broken marriage as wife Wendy (Reilly) has dumped him for someone wealthy in New York and taken their children.

Xavier instinctively heads to New York to recover his muse and visit the kids. He temporarily stays with pal Isabelle (Cécile de France) from the auberge days, who, now gay, lives with her Chinese-American partner Ju (Sandrine Holt) in Brooklyn. Ju eventually helps Xavier settle into the serviceable Chinatown apartment she rented when in college. Xavier returns the favor by supplying the couple with semen so they can have a child via artificial insemination. He expedites the task by scanning pictures of women together in a porn magazine.

As for his own kids, Kelly allows visits, but she’s cold and her significant other and Xavier are like oil and water. Complications mount: Xavier struggles as a bike messenger but learns it would be best for him to marry to obtain his visa to stay in the U.S. Isabelle and Ju have their baby, but Isabelle and the babysitter get something going and Xavier must play interference so Ju doesn’t find out. A favor Xavier does a Chinese-American cabbie gives him the opportunity to marry, but the stern immigration grunt who must determine that true love is the ballast for the marriage brings trouble.

And Martine (Audrey Tautou), from the “auberge” years, arrives in New York on a business trip (we are asked to believe she’s now a Chinese-speaking, big-deal international real estate exec) and stays with pal Xavier. But Martine has deeper designs.

Chinese Puzzle betrays Klapisch’s curious interest in things Chinese and lesbian, as much screen time is given to both, especially Isabelle’s dalliance with the sitter. Klapisch’s latter obsession flirts with exploitation, but maybe it’s just the French in him or the director suspecting what his audiences want.

Beautifully shot, Chinese Puzzle delivers a sparkling French present in its colorful portrait of a New York off the sightseer’s beaten path. The film is also distinguished by snippets of amusing animation and special effects (Hegel and Schopenhauer show up to guide Xavier) that never interfere with Xavier’s unfolding adventures.

Click here for cast and crew information.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Momo
Film Review: Letter to Momo

Literally beset by goblins, this strained animated effort should have concentrated on the human elements of its story rather than the supernatural. More »

A Master Builder
Film Review: A Master Builder

A personal project which should have stayed personal, this turgid yet flat Ibsen adaptation is third-time unlucky for Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. More »

Fanny
Film Review: Fanny

"Classic" is a word all too casually bandied about, but for Daniel Auteuil's screen adaptation of this beloved French trilogy it is completely apropos. More »

Alive Inside
Film Review: Alive Inside

Incredibly moving and powerful documentary about combatting Alzheimer's with music. Without the use of a single CGI effect, you see literal miracles happening here. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sex Tape review
Film Review: Sex Tape

Couple's homemade porn circulates on the web in an R-rated comedy that wastes the talents of its stars. More »

The Purge: Anarchy
Film Review: The Purge: Anarchy

A modest but noticeable improvement on its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy offers a more effective—if still far from ideal—realization of the series' killer premise. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here