There’s only thing that seems ill-considered about Cedric Klapisch‘s Chinese Puzzle (Cohen Media Group, 5.16) is the title. Yes, it’s largely set in Manhattan’s Chinatown and involves a somewhat puzzling tangle of relationships centering around a French writer in his late 30s (Romain Duris), but the title doesn’t even hint at the buoyant spirit and mood of the trailer. It hasn’t caught major festival heat so far, but it’s well liked. It played the London Film Festival last October. Positive reviews have surfaced in Australia, where it opens later this week. It’ll play at L.A.’s COLCOA Festival. I’m seeing it tomorrow morning at 10 am, and I hate attending screenings at that hour.
Here’s a portion of a Concrete Playground review by Tom Clift: “Somewhere, between the heady romantic drama of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy and the good-natured bawdiness of the American Pie franchise, sit the films of Cedric Klapisch. Released in 2002, Spanish Apartment first introduced us to Xavier Rousseau (Romain Duris), a French university student on exchange in Barcelona. Four years later, Russian Dolls picked up with Xavier again, as he continued to search for love and direction in an increasingly complicated world.
“Chinese Puzzle turns the series into a trilogy, although Klapisch ensures the story is more or less accessible to newcomers. Now an author at the tail-end of his 30s, Xavier is marginally more mature than the last time we saw him, although no more lucky in the romance department. As a matter of fact, the film begins just in time for us to witness his marriage, to Englishwoman Wendy (Kelly Reilly), fall apart. When she takes their kids to live in Manhattan, Xavier decides to cross the Atlantic as well, crashing with his old friend Isabelle (Cecile de France) and her new girlfriend, Ju (Sandrine Holt), until he can find accommodation of his own.
“As with the previous films, Klapisch keeps the tone buoyant, livening Xavier’s voiceover musings — on life, love, family, aging and the cultural stewpot in which all of us are ingredients — with plenty of visual whimsy. Xavier’s hunt for an apartment unfolds through a montage of Google Map graphics, even as the ghosts of German philosophers pop by to offer him relationship advice. French DJs Loik Dury and Christopher Mink provide the score, a joyously infectious mix of jazz, hip hop and soul.”