Chinese Puzzle : A Film Review

imageDirector Cedric Klapisch. France/USA/Belgium 2013 Cert,15 . 1hr 57mins.
Following 2002 Pot Luck and 2005 Russian Dolls.

Riveting Romantic Comedy
If you see this third component in the lives of the people who met up on an exchange apartment share back then, 2002, in Barcelona you will want to see those earlier ones to feel linked to the still complex story of the characters we meet and engage with in Chinese Puzzle.
The earlier ones are a shade over two hours long so this is a breeze at slightly under. It actually is so well made and engrossing with scene after scene beautifully spoiling us in its visual spree and with us quickly taking in the subtitles;often hindering a complex story for some, it shines as great cinema should, given the portrayal by the whole ensemble is clever, strong and emotionally convincing throughout. There are no dips no summits of pivotal story quenching incident but it travels at a pace with a barely visible weave of the approaching story delivering keynotes subtly and without bombast or fussy cinema.
Third part a Chinese Puzzle
This is 2013 and this shows the development of the cast in their lives and a return for the actors to a significant pin on the CV each having grown strongly through it is reward we witness.
I have not seen the previous ones yet and now intend to.
Seeing this one thus, is for reviewing purposes, therefore a bit premature but I can report that this film can be fully satisfying entirely on its own. As a stand alone it is as wonderful without too much dependency on the past. It happened and has bearing but the trick all can see is to delight in the actions and lives interacting in the present tense. The act of living, of embracing consciousness is even more distinct and valuable than a slight looking over the shoulder at other moments. One of the films lessons and directors motivating intentions of which it is clear in word and vivid in light.

What happened is gone and gone is gone.
Every so often Director Cedric Klapisch positions a philosopher – Schonberg is one or Mengel, – in a scene. They enter someone’s bedroom, living room and sit to recollect their writing, leaving suddenly on the wisp of one of their famous bon mots received by us comedically as a Bon marche.
This simultaneously questioning of the philosophers art and their period of life discovery reflects on how they functioned as writers particularly as our eponymous central friend Xavier, Romain Duris is cast as a writer, a successful one with the pen and less so in sustaining relationships with a beautiful cast of women.
My own phrase then or borrowed somewhere is apt “How you arrived here is not what will takes you there”. He relies on his writing to the detriment of self awareness. The relevance of the past is a writers relevance, full of recorded anecdote and nuances of less value than he realises when life comes to shove.
The fundamental things apply but the hoarding of memories for all these people, these friends, is mostly an obstacle to their current selfs meeting again as recorded portraits that clearly have altered inside and out.
Each belongs to a maturity not held back then.
Xavier is not self obsessed rather he is blinded to those around him and their needs. This youthfulness is now for him disappearing as the lives of others become solidified, become deeper and more intuitive.
Where he has been is a formidable array of experiences without which he is not Xavier. The aged Xavieris accomplishing reconciliation with the lives parallel, alongside his and the narrative of his story is told partly now through the directors chosen optic of the philosophers as bedrocks, treated with optimistic naivety as a kind of reflection on Xavier. It acts as a go-between device but is overcast by other film elements. It diminishes his character though or undermines it slightly in filmatic terms. Besides philosophers put rocks to trip over occasionally I contend and this is one way of showing it I suppose.

New Block for the Kids
The film begins with a new encounter with Isabelle, Cecile de France who appeared as a gay before and here she is energised, hot – I confess I don’t know what the ‘testosterone’ on the SRY gene front, equivalent is for you women, (has it an antonym!?) – she has lots of it and is still as kooky as ever having a proposition for Xavier which is itself a bit outside the box for him than his liberal mind might accept. Ju is Isabelle’s partner and a good catch. Such is the strength of the cast this works out for all concerned. Ju does the go-between angel bit constantly with no sides to her and is like a cool mistress to all.

Xavier likes propositions as it fuels his writing genes and fatherhood genes. This melting pot is his life and you might say his creation.
This proposition kind of acts as a catalyst for the breakdown of his marriage.
For ten years and having brought up two lovely kids, (other kids are available as screwed up by their parents!) so his lover Wendy, Kelly Reilly decides its over as she confesses to having found an alternative on a trip to NYC.

His editor who appears in the film via. Skype frequently often has meaningful conversations on the novel development technique while conceiving in Xavier’s mind a confused reality of fact and fiction somewhat cumbersomely filmwise.
Actually his editor reminds Xavier of this at a significant point underpinning the films philosophy. Natural, moral, metaphysical you choose, and we all embrace the sentiment though some earlier than others.

Above us only Sky
Xavier understandably is distraught and he decides to follow his kids and exploratory gene by following Wendy to New York and to sort out his life.
The Up town, Down town vibe kicks in and this NYC world of contrasts provides visually stunning filmic opportunities. You would have to be pretty dumb not to be able to feast on this tapestry of life visually. So we get it framed beautiful most times. The NYC is the new safe NYC so the ease of life fits into the cradle of the kids and they make new friends as does Xavier.

The philosopher in Xavier discovers the city streets and when his estranged father makes a visit they walking jointly find the ones that baulked the pattern. Xavier finds himself of the downtown with everyone seeking the uptown and has visions of the people wanting to live closer to the sky. Cedric Klapisch takes time to show us the NY real estate growing and the avenues like well turned pages in a book.

Xavier gets almost biblical in adoring this concept. Inside it is as if he is citing “I cried to The Lord with my voice and he heard me from His Holy hill “
A good point to mention All Souls New York 1163 Lexington Avenue, New York where you are as likely to find true faith and meet acceptance as anywhere in New York. The Church the L’Wren Scott funeral took place from is St Bartholomew’s and fitted the Anglican doctrine of Jagger it seems, is also in Manhattan.
New York Mix
Martine, Audrey Tatou has hit it big in France and having upset her apple cart, left with two kids, with ambition fueling her drive for business, succeeds and we see her met Xavier after Skype conversations, catch ups when she comes to New York but clearly works as Xavier creates great material. out the jewel in the China Tea crown.
Her modus operandi brings one of the funniest and brilliantly absurdities of East mets West in the West in a boardroom to the widescreen. It is I hope going down well with the Chinese.
Their custom, another aside, when assigning you a dining table is to place you according to their assumptions of your status. Is it suit, clothing, dress, cleavage, clean shaven, demeanour, what is being scrutinised?
So if you do not go up as many floors as the building has dining rooms then you not número uno.
We see Martine high up in the city skyline. No connection but it is also the place where Wendy has homed in on by finding herself a sweet John who happens to be rich. Goldman Sachs anyone? PWC? Credit Suisse?

Xavier needs and wants New York as his kids are everything and they adore him despite this landfall change. Resilient as they come. He perhaps, as he realises at times, looses out through engaging his mind in a fantasy fictional form. By meeting with so many women from his past he also gets a run down from each and in concert they prescribe remedy..
The whole menagerie of relationships becomes more complex, a mention by Martine of “You haven’t been to China” true, summons in me a what does she mean moment, as she addresses the complexity question. On reflection since the Ming period nothing is more complex than China. When Xavier has on his journey as a cycle courier around the city streets found his mojo he then using a taxi for once and helps out boldly a Chineseman who is very, along with his family, very grateful. This brings on board more insane slapstick and some very endearing episodes in which Cedric Klapisch brings us the kaliedescope of the world in all three films. Martine brings her kids on a trip which has them loving the place and they befriend the Wendy, Xavier children. This is the colour and breadth of the film. Showing all the itinerant lives, no matter how so fixed, interweave and respond evaluate and coalesce into the strange bewildering motes of life.
It is as though the nomad mind is one of a pastoral wayfarer.
Be on time
There is a cameo for product, some aforementioned but I wish to give a big Hello to the Airport bus from Chinatown. It sits patiently awaiting various hellos, Goodbyes and is itself a focus of our vision of NYC. It goes by the name of FUNG WAH BUS. There it is in bold caps.
It is a nice friendly character that bus and driver.
If you run you might catch it and it cements itself in our hearts every time or is it just me who knows the cut off buses often mean.

Conclusion. 4 ####.
Having seen only this one so far it materializes as 4/5 but it may be stubborn and grow and grow if it happens to summon emotions quickly repeatedly and heartfelt as it must for many.
The players are great, some you may not fully be struck with as characters but they lift the directors vision of our nonalleic genes predisposing all of our kind to this kaladescopic life – achieved in 6hrs 8mins. Often I wonder if this includes the titles. Even the score is brilliant as it is the proper sometimes funky soundscape while only a few things in my mind don’t exactly make it, the early use of cartoonish shorthand and graphic indulgences, meaningful as they depict the present era but in time possibly an irritant.
Cedric Klapisch gets 5/5 for direction and realising this decade + long project and the casts commitment truly pays all dividends.
Being called a Riveting Romantic Comedy, my first para. simply does not do it Justice.
See it and be enteralled.

In fact see ALLthree.

A way of doing this is to see the following screenings

Pot Luck on QFT Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 June 2014
Russian Dolls on QFT. Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 June 2014


Chinese Puzzle on QFT Friday 4 July through to Thursday 10 July 2014

John Graham

25 June 2014


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