The French filmmaker Cédric Klapisch has made a career out of movies that bring together big international casts and intently tap into the current global zeitgeist.
His most prominent film, “L’Auberge Espagnole” (2003), centered on the Spanish home shared by Europeans from across the continent, became an art house hit in the U.S.
“Chinese Puzzle” completes a trilogy begun with that film and continued with the 2005 flick “Russian Dolls.” This time, the action is set in New York, that most global of cities, and is focused on author Xavier (Roman Duris) as he tries to juggle professional and personal demands in a whole new country.
In classic Klapisch fashion, the movie is aggressively pop-oriented. Scenes are shot in slow-motion, others are illustrated with pop-up cut-outs and still others involve imagined conversations with Hegel and other philosophical luminaries.
It’s so amped up, so eager to please in the most commercial sense, that it winds up seeming aimless and adrift. The picture’s episodic nature isn’t an inherent problem; there are plenty of great stories to be wrung from this sort of hyper modern slice-of-life.
The problem is that Klapisch doesn’t really know what story he wants to tell, so he fills the picture with the aforementioned stylistic distractions.
The movie surrounds Duris with a lot of talented actresses, including Kelly Reilly as his ex-wife Wendy, Audrey Tautou as another former flame and Cécile De France as his best friend. There are some engaging individual moments with each of them — these are really charming, likable people.
There’s a certain degree of interest in this bright and sunny outsiders view of NYC life, as well. But the movie goes on too long and has very little to say.
Directed by Cédric Klapisch
Starring Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cécile De France, Kelly Reilly
Playing at Angelika and Lincoln Plaza