First of all, read my previous blogpost on the film here.
Second of all, there are slight spoilers in my review. I don't give away anything major about the plot, and the things I talk about are mentioned in the first few minutes of the film but I thought I should warn you anyway. Also, I went and saw this film without first having seen the trailer. I recommend you not watch the trailer before you see this film if you don't want to know anything beforehand.
Casse-tête Chinois (Chinese Puzzle) Cédric Klapisch film review
First of all, I think the title of the film is genius. Literally, casse-tête chinois means Chinese "broken head" which is translated into "Chinese Puzzle", ie it's a puzzle that drives you so crazy it breaks your head. It is obvious they wanted to keep the theme of having an adjective related to a country/culture - L'auberge espagnol (Spanish youth hostel), Les poupées russes (Russian dolls), Chinese puzzle... The only difference is this time no part of the film is set in China. If you google "casse-tête chinois" it's one of those wooden puzzles where all the pieces have to fit together in the right way and in the right order.
Xavier (Romain Duris), now 40, says his life is a mess and he wonders how he got to this point, where the pieces are obviously NOT in the right order nor in the right place. He recounts his touching, funny and personal story over the past few years through Skype interviews with his book publisher (he is writing a book based on his life).
I have seen the first two films but it has been so long ago that I cannot remember the story lines. It is not necessary IMHO to have seen them but it would help you have a deeper understanding of the main characters and their development. Fans of either the first two films will be delighted to see the actresses Audrey Tautou, Kelly Reilly and Cécile De France reprise their roles as Martine, Wendy and Isabelle. I felt that maybe the director (Cédric Klapisch) wanted to capitalize on the success and popularity of Audrey Tautou with foreigners by putting her in the film as much as possible.
In the first few minutes of the film the protagonist mentions going from point A to point B in life. What I feel is that life is so easy in your 20s (their ages in the first film) where everybody starts at the same point, at point A. In your 30s people's lives tend to go down different paths, marriages, singledom, divorces, kids or no kids, gay/lesbianism, there is no one set path and nobody can predict what will happen in your life from your late 20s onwards. I guess the film is trying to show that it's OK not to have a 'perfect' life and that there are happy relationships of all different kinds.
Apart from the main topic of romantic relationships, the film also briefly touches on parent-child relationships and features Xavier's children but also his parents in 2 short separate scenes. I don't feel that these scenes would have been missed if taken out but I am glad they were in there because when you get to the age where you have kids or 'should be' having kids you think about your own parents a lot, their relationship with each other and to you. The scene with his father was really sweet but I won't give it away what it was.
And so, Xavier is now married to Wendy (and has been for the past 10 years) and has 2 children with her. Their relationship is on the rocks and one day Wendy announces she has met a new man in New York and wants to move there, immediately, with the children. Xavier, therefore, has no choice but to give up his life in Paris and to join them in New York to stay in regular contact with his young children.
This brings up a whole new set of problems for him such as finding housing, slight language issues, finding a job, how to stay in the country legally for a long period of time... as someone who has moved overseas (several times) I found this aspect highly interesting and it shows the young people these days, are more than ever, globally mobile and willing to overcome hardships and obstacles in an effort to start a new life elsewhere.
There are many new (multi-cultural) characters and actors introduced into this third film of the trilogy and together they create an interesting patchwork for the New York setting and for the plot. There are many Chinese (Chinese American) characters in this film and Chinatown is featured often too, strengthening the multiple meanings behind the title. There is also a hilarious scene where Martine speaks Chinese
I won't go on much further other than to say that it's a much see! 10/10 for me. If you enjoyed the previous two in the series, or enjoy films that you can really relate to, full of funny, sweet and poignant moments, this is definitely one not to miss. I only have a small complaint and that is some parts of the plot were are bit too Hollywoodish. Nevertheless, the film was overall not that predictable for me and there were many surprising twists and turns.
and I watched the film in French with NO subtitles and understood 99% of it. Woohoo!
A ne pas manquer !!