Sonntag, 8. Dezember 2013

Casse-tête chinois

Eight years after "Les poupées russes" and eleven years after "L'auberge espagnole", French director Cédric Klapisch and his cast reunite for a not always plausible, but altogether winsome, kinetic, entirely entertaining third round in the New York-set "Casse-tête chinois". Following a superbly cut, nostalgia-fueled opening credits sequence that could well be one of the year's best, it soon becomes apparent that the screenwriters are struggling to pick up where they left off so long ago. In fact, the first 2/3 of the movie feels much like an elaborate excuse just to get everybody together again. That romance takes a back seat here to less exciting concerns like family and children is not in itself the problem- after all, like the stars from the "Before Sunrise" series, these former Erasmus students are now turning 40. But the actual construct of the plot is strenuous on many fronts, leaving things to such thinly established strikes of whim in service of the next gag that it just seems too artificial, convenient.

In the last 30 minutes, though, when all the pieces are in place and poised to stir up a storm, the story finally does assume a life of its own. In a particularly brilliant scene where the chemistry and wit of this group of friends are put to a spontaneous test, the writing/directing/acting conspire to hit that comedic sweet spot with such fluency it's priceless.

The cast, down to the angelic child actors, is splendid. Even when what they do on screen doesn't make much sense, it's never less than a joy to watch them do it. I can personally think of many worse ways to spend two hours than see Romain Duris ponder about life and love, Audrey Tautou recite an ancient Chinese poem in Mandarin or Cécile de France play the horny lesbian mother refusing to get old. The combined star power and goodwill coming from these lovely specimens, maximized by delicious cinematography and a funky soundtrack, is practically an energy source, it warms you up no end.    

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