Chinese Puzzle (Cédric Klapisch, 2013)
I was so looking forward to this. After seeing so many great French films at the French film festival I had high hopes for a film that was getting its own cinematic release in Australia and that was starring the likes of Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris. But I was disappointed. I found out a couple of days before I saw it that Chinese Puzzle is the third in a series, following The Spanish Apartment (2002) and Russian Dolls (2005). The three films follow Xavier (Duris), Martine (Tautou), Isabelle (Cécile De France) and Wendy (Kelly Reilly). Maybe it would have helped to have seen the previous films before this one. And maybe this one was less interesting because they were all approaching 40, compared to living it up in their 20s which I can relate more to. Having said that, I don’t think it’s especially hard to enjoy a film with characters who you can’t relate to in terms of age.
I just don’t think this was that good. And that really bums me out because there were SO MANY good films at the festival that probably won’t even get their own release despite being much more deserving. Populaire (Régis Roinsard, 2012), It Boy (David Moreau, 2013), and Venus in Fur (Roman Polanski, 2013) were all much superior. Not to mention all the films I didn’t get to see like Möbius (Eric Rochant, 2013) starring Jean Dujardin. I NEED SOME DUJARDIN IN MY LIFE! Duris is hot but he doesn’t quite compare.
In Chinese Puzzle, Xavier, a writer, endeavours to finish his novel amidst the chaos of his life. His wife, Wendy leaves him and takes his kids to New York, leaving him no choice but to follow. Meanwhile he fathers the baby of his lesbian friend, Isabelle, marries Chinese-American Nancy (Li Jun Li) to obtain a green card, and hooks up with his ex-girlfriend, Martine who is visiting from Paris. I expected some sort of culture clash escapade but there is pretty much nothing to do with China on display, and the Frenchman living in America aspect is nothing exciting. Although I do love New York locations.
What did annoy me was the laidback attitude to cheating presented here with the character of Isabelle. She nearly gets caught cheating but she gets away with it and then she and her girlfriend live happily ever after with absolutely zero consequences for her adultery. Bullshit. Is this a French attitude? It blows. Audrey Tautou for the first time ever was actually not that adorable. In fact I found her kind of annoying. If you can’t make Audrey Tautou 100% loveable in a French rom-com then I am sorry, you have failed. The ending was also mega-clichéd. As in, he runs through the streets of New York before a woman gets on her bus. Puh-lease. Give us something original. You’re FRENCH. I expected more of you! You can do worse than this, but you can do oh so much better.