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  • Gareth Crook

Casse-tête chinois (2013) - 8/10

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

So I’ve reached the conclusion of Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy, following the dramatic and rocky love stories of Xavier’s life and his circle of multicultural friends. Watching these films back to back, it’s been quite a ride. Xavier... still Romain Duris (I’m impressed that Klapisch keeps managing to get the same actors back over a decade). He’s now 40 and life hasn’t got any simpler. As he says “Most people go from point A to point B. Not me. I have a point B problem”. This coming from Xavier in the opening scenes sums up the whole film, it’s all about introspection. He has two children now, but isn’t with their mother, Wendy. I’m not really surprised, but find myself really upset for them. I also think I might have a crush on Kelly Reilly who plays Wendy, but let’s not get into that. He’s not with Wendy anymore for probably many reasons, but one being him helping his friend Isabelle (Cécile de France) have a baby with her girlfriend. Wendy takes off to New York with her new lover, forcing Xavier who’s career in Paris is just starting to flourish, to leave and stay close to his children. Heartbreaking stuff. That’s the point of Xavier’s journey though, right from the start. Being uprooted, taking risks. New York is often depicted on film as vibrant, exciting, but after we’ve been in Paris, Barcelona, London, St. Petersburg on this odyssey... the Big Apple seems less of a warm hug and more of an aggressor. Xavier doesn’t take well to it. Usually stumbling freely through cities. This one gives him a real culture shock. I get it, this is the heavy film. Child custody, divorce. Where better than the cesspit of lawyers that is New York. That’s not to say this isn’t fun. The edit is fast and quirky, sticking to its 90s roots, but Xavier isn’t in a happy place. Despite Isabelle’s partner Ju renting him her old apartment and John, Wendy’s new bloke being really very nice. On a temporary visa, Xavier is on borrowed time. Working illegally, writing his book... which is essentially the screenplay of this film. He needs to find something to anchor him... he always needs something to anchor him. We’ve often thought that could be Martine (Audrey Tautou) who’s still on the scene. It’s notable that whenever she pops up in these films, she commands the screen, effortlessly rendering all other sub plots unimportant. She’s magnetic... but is she the one? Nancy (Li Jun Li) isn’t , daughter of a taxi driver he saved from a beating with a baseball bat... New York offers a whole new level of complicated doesn’t it. She though is going to be his bride and a ticket for citizenship. Duris is brilliant throughout. Brilliant throughout all three films. The entire cast are. It’s a lovely trilogy, full of all the ups and downs of life. Although the heights of the first film are never quite recaptured, together they make a great set and this film is a fitting finale.



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