Director Cedric Klapisch calls “Chinese Puzzle” the result of active planning.
Twelve years ago, he released “L’Auberge Espagnole,” a sweet, lightweight comedy-drama with an ensemble cast that earned international acclaim. “Russian Dolls,” the sequel, was released in 2005, and the new “Chinese Puzzle” shows the same characters in their 40s and with kids.
Klapisch, in The City with actor Romain Duris for the recent San Francisco International Film Festival, planned the third chapter as soon as the second one materialized.
“I really missed the actors, so the motivation was to find an excuse to see each other again,” he says.
In “Chinese Puzzle,” the main character, writer Xavier (Duris), decides to follow his ex-wife (Kelly Reilly) when she moves to New York with their kids.
His life becomes more confusing when he moves in with his lesbian friend (Cecile De France) and her lover, helps them conceive a baby, marries a Chinese immigrant and sleeps with old friend Martine (Audrey Tautou).
Duris, who turns 40 on Wednesday, says even though he has played Xavier for more than a decade, he isn’t obsessed with the character: “When I finish the story, I just close the door. I don’t think of him. He has his own life.”
Despite juggling several chaotic story lines, “Chinese Puzzle” has a wonderful lightness and relaxed tone. And Klapisch manages to tell the story of a writer without making him a passive observer.
“It’s boring to watch a writer write,” Klapisch says. “I try to talk about what it is to tell your life and what it is to live your life. There’s a real difference between the two.”
Appealingly, the movie takes on whatever tone Xavier is feeling at the moment, Klapisch says, “mixed to what he is experiencing — so it can be realistic or surrealistic or fantasy-like.”
The filmmaker also remains open to all kinds of moments and ideas, both big and small, including a huge, truly international melting pot of cultures and languages.
Klapisch says he likes to pay attention to “uninteresting things” and make them interesting for the audience: “You trust the fact that comedy can be in any situation.”
As the movie ends, the characters still seem full of possibility and life.
After his 80-year-old father saw the film, Duris says he remarked that “40-year-old people think they’re old, but they’re not old.” The actor continues, “When I was a kid and I saw a 40-year-old guy, he seemed to be so serious and important. Now? It’s fun.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cecile De France, Kelly Reilly
Written and directed by Cedric Klapisch