Chinese Puzzle is the third instalment in the series that began with 2002’s The Spanish Apartment. Picking up 10 years after its predecessor Russian Dolls, the film continues to tell the story of Xavier Rousseau (Romain Duris), a French writer whose life has been in a perpetual state of drama ever since the series began.
Much has happened in the 10 years between films; Russian Dolls ended with Xavier and Wendy (Kelly Reilly) finally getting together, and Chinese Puzzle begins with conflict between the lovers, who now have 2 children together. There is also a change of scenery, with the film being set largely in New York, providing a lot of American-French snobbery and hilarity. Much of the old gang is still there, with Audrey Tatou playing the ever-dramatic Martine, and Cécile de France returning as Xavier’s best friend Isabelle.
With age, Xavier surprisingly seems to have gotten a little wiser and a little less governed by his penis, and it’s interesting to see him playing the role of ‘responsible father’. But he is still very much himself, and is still incidentally involved in a whole bunch of drama, intrigue, and comedy. The film is punctuated with hilarious conversations with Xavier’s editor, and his exchanges with various long-dead philosophers are particularly golden.
All three films have relied heavily on Romain Duris’ abilities, and in all three he has delivered. Duris’ Xavier continues to charm the pants off his female leads and his audience. Chinese Puzzle is really beautifully made, with director Cédric Klapisch bringing the same unique aesthetic that have helped make the series so enjoyable.
If you’re a fan of the series, this film doesn’t disappoint, and those coming to the film with no awareness of the rest of the series will find a lot to like in Chinese Puzzle.
Chinese Puzzle is in cinemas April 17.