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Xavier is now forty years old. So are Wendy, Isabelle and Martine. At forty you are supposed to be more mature and live a a steadier life than at twenty. But not Xavier. Well, to be fair, he has made some progress in the field of thoughtfulness (he has even become a writer) but as concerns his everyday life, it is far from well-ordered. To be totally honest it is not entirely Xavier's fault if his wife Wendy has suddenly left him for a new companion in New York and taken their two children with her. Realizing he can't stand living without them, Xavier decides to settle down in Big Apple in order to remain close to them. He finds a home in Chinatown and it does not take long before trouble comes his way.Written by
The last instalment of a trilogy written and directed by Cédric Klapisch, which follows the journey of Xavier from student to family man. The first chapter is the movie "L'auberge espagnole", released in 2002, and the second chapter is "Les poupées russes", released in 2005. See more »
The immigration enforcement agency in the U.S. is referred to as the INS. However, the INS ceased to exist in 2003 when it was merged into the new Department of Homeland Security. See more »
Fun to revisit these characters that I've grown fond of, but a noticeably weaker film than its predecessors
CASSE-TETE CHINOIS (Chinese Puzzle, 2013) is the third film in Cédrich Klapisch's series on globalization and growing older. It began with L'Auberge espagnole, which saw Xavier Rousseau (Romain Duris), a 25 year-old university student and aspiring writer, spending a wild year in Barcelona with other exchange students from throughout Europe. The second film Les poupées russes revisited Xavier as he turns 30 and has still not established a writing career or found a stable relationship. Its happy ending with Xavier settling down with former Erasmus companion Wendy (Kelly Reilly) seemed to augur well for the future.
But as Casse-Tete Chinois opens, we find that Xavier's relationship with Wendy collapsed ten years into their marriage. Wendy has left Paris for New York, where she has met another man, and takes their two children with her. Xavier follows them to New York to be closer to his children, but Wendy has turned cold and hostile. His lesbian pal Isabelle (Cécile de France) is also there, and Xavier has helped her and her lover have a child. On the threshold of 40, Xavier finds that his life is just as complicated as ever. The film follows Xavier adjusting to a new life in the United States, searching for a flat and a job, and dealing with a bitter custody battle. With all this on his plate, his old ex Martine (Andrey Tatou), now a import-export businesswoman dealing with organic products, drops in with her two children too.
In commenting on this series of films, Cédric Klapisch has said that he wants to capture the fact that Xavier's and younger generations are very mobile, and for them it's commonplace to go to another country to work/study or enter into a relationship with someone of a different nationality. Here this mobility is explored through several French people in New York, and New York with its wealth and myriad immigrant communities is treated as a very distinct place from the United States in general. Nothing at all is seen or heard of the Spanish flatmates from the first film, who at least got a bit part in the second film. I think that's rather a shame, we could have at least got a few lines of dialogue about how William (Kevin Bishop), whose marriage to a Russian woman was the whole setup for the second film, is getting on.
I enjoyed revisiting some of these characters again after nearly a decade, and Duris's acting is admirable: his Xavier remains the manchild we know and love, but he captures the impact of the years. Cécile de France is again so convincing in her role that one wonders if she really is like this in real life. The script, however, strikes me as rather weak. There's a strange side plot of adultery, where a character appallingly cheats on their lover and the other characters hardly object, and it ends up with almost the exact same scene of everyone racing to an apartment to warn the trysting pair as in the first film.
Still, the series as a whole remains worth seeing and an important commentary on the contemporary world. I hope Klapisch will continue Xavier's story in a few more years.
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