Chinese Puzzle

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

This third dip into the lives of a group of European friends by director C�dric Klapisch finds some romantic connections unravelling while others rekindle.

The story of Xavier (Romain Duris), Wendy (Kelly Reilly), Martine (Audrey Tatou), and Isabelle (C�cile De France) started with 2002's Barcelona-set "The Spanish Apartment," then picked up again in 2005 with "Russian Dolls." Now, rounding out the trilogy, Klapisch reunites most of the old cast and introduces new characters for the brisk, sparkling comedy "Chinese Puzzle."

Xavier and Wendy, now entering their forties, have settled in Paris, had a couple of kids, and found success in their respective writing careers -- he as a novelist, she as a screenwriter. But when Wendy falls in love and moves to New York City, taking the kids with her, Xavier finds himself so desolate in the wake of their departure that he decides to uproot and follow them --�with no long-term visa, no real plan, and nothing but his current novel in progress in the way of job prospects.

New York's gravitational pull, meantime, has also snagged Isabelle (who's made the move to be with her American girlfriend Ju (Sandrine Holt) and has begun to tug at Xavier's old flame Martine (Audrey Tatou), now a single mother with two kids of her own. What unfolds is a tale of mounting complications, cross-connected destinies, family complications (marriage of convenience! Sperm donation!), and energetic cinematic storytelling that crackles with flavor and verve.

Xavier is the heart of the story, and Klapisch aptly treats the screenplay from a suitable vantage, infusing the film with imaginative flourishes that tip a hat to writerly excesses without the film sinking into excess itself. There are moments of highly comic fantasy, but no cheesy schtick a la "She's Having A Baby," the John Hughes film that similarly took the writer's point of view to flamboyant extremes.

Klapisch remains sober enough in his jubilant creativity to ensure the film remains grounded. He also brings a novelistic sensibility to his script while reveling in the visual possibilities of modern filmmaking. (He's also working in 35 mm here, which will park joy in the hearts of cineastes everywhere.)

This Blu-ray release from Cohen Media Group offers a few extras. Aside from the theatrical trailer, there's an hourlong featurette celebrating the "Spanish Apartment" trilogy and looking at the process of a French filmmaker working in New York City, according to American union rules. (This in itself qualifies for rich comic source material.) There are also interview segments with Tatou and De France about the trilogy. (Oddly, each short interview segment is presented in both wide and tight angles.)

"Chinese Puzzle"

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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