Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

"Chinese Puzzle" is the final installment in a trilogy which began with  L'Auberge Espagnole" (Spanish apartment) in 2002 and was followed in 2005 by "Les Poupees Russe" (Russian Dolls).  

The common factor is Xavier (Roman Durius) who started as a college student sharing an apartment with other students in the first film which I saw back then. The second film (which I never saw) is obviously set in Russia and apparently focused on Xavier after he broke up with Martine (Audrey Tatou) and it is where his relationship with Wendy blooms. 

In this last film, Xavier decides to follow his kids whom his now ex-wife Wendy has decided to uproot back to her native land, America. He is a writer experiencing writer's block and the only apartment he can afford is located in the Chinatown part of New York. All the women he was previously involved with suddenly converging in New York, life for Xavier is pretty complex. As complicated as a Chinese puzzle.

The lightweight film is not without its charms and frustrations as well. It is charming to watch how devoted he is to his kids. On the other scheme of things, I wonder how he can afford to live in such an expensive place like New York on his meager writer's salary. 

It presents a nice microcosm of life in New York - the neighborhoods, the people (mostly his merry mix of diverse friends) and the different pulsating bits and pieces that make up the heart of the city that never sleeps. Even if I didn't see the second film and the first film is merely a blur to me now, it is easy to follow the story of Xavier as a dad navigating through his complex yet very bohemian life in New York.

A fitting end to a trilogy that gave us an unusual and multifaceted character Xavier - a funky, soulful French dude who is not physically attractive but is charming enough for us to get invested in his tangled life.

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