Friday 29 December 2023

Chinese Puzzle (2013)

This is a super little romantic comedy of errors a cut above most others. I tuned in to see Audrey Tautou really, who turns out not to be one of the primary cast. She’s in it a fair amount, steals the scenes when she is, but it’s the other players who get the lion’s share. It has a real Woody Allen feel about it, supported by the very deep hooks into European culture, multi-language and focus on-location in New York. I think he’d have been proud of it and is a big fan.

So, complicated it is - as we start with our main man Xavier married to American Wendy, living in Paris with their two kids. She gets some work in NY and whilst there falls for John, ends up staying there, marrying John and eventually bringing the two kids. Xavier can’t stand this, so also moves to NY to be near the kids. He stays with a French ex-girlfriend Isabelle, living in NY who is now gay, and desperately wants a child with her American partner Ju - so guess who’s up for the job of supplying the necessary!

Meanwhile, Isabelle falls for the young babysitter girl, also called Isabelle, and Xavier has to dance the merry dance in order to keep Ju from finding out what the two Isabelle’s are up to! In amongst all this, Martine, another French ex of Xavier’s turns up visiting NY with eyes on snagging Xavier back for herself. And to top it all, Xavier has to marry an American person in order to stay in the country, which he does on the back of an Asian family owing him a favour for saving their uncle’s life in a street altercation.

Confused?! Yes, it’s a rip-roaring comedy of errors, as I say, with some great scenes scripted and executed. The funniest of which is probably the meeting Martine (Tautou) has with a board of Chinese directors as she tries to sell them her ideas about tea, where, for comic impact, she suddenly starts speaking in their language to them, no subtitles for us, just to watch what transpires. Very funny.

Then there’s the Immigration officer who’s trying to make sure that Xavier’s marriage to Asian Nancy is not an arranged one, which it is, so everyone’s leaping about in order to not get caught out on that front!

Anyway, it’s all very funny. Romain Duris is excellent in the lead as Xavier, Tautou supports beautifully, Kelly Reilly, Cécile de France and Sandrine Holt do likewise along with the rest of the excellently appointed cast, especially the 4 kids!

Apparently it’s the 3rd part of a trilogy of films by director/writer Cédric Klapisch, so I must see the other two now, Pot Luck (2002) and Russian Dolls (2005), even though I seem to have done it the wrong way around! This one is funny, engaging, cute, romantic, off-the-wall potty but also at times moving and thoughtful, as Xavier reflects on the meaning of life and his role within it. Life. Highly recommended.

Addendum ...on further inspection, it seems that the first two parts of this trilogy of films have a very similar character line-up and even actors, to some degree. So it looks like I really have jumped the gun on this, watching the last, first. Bit late now. Closing the stable door after the horse has bolted! Oh well, I'll still track 'em down!

Abigail (2024)

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