THIRD TWIST IN THE TALE
Familiar characters resume their search for the self in Cedric Klapisch’s comic drama writes
more the French way, more my way of working. But even before that, we were using New York City as representative of a struggle between order and chaos, like Xavier’s life.
“For all the challenges we faced filming in America, what’s been great about working with (French studio) Canal Plus is how, all along, they’ve been more trusting of my way of working than of a script or a story. It’s a great privilege. They know that if I feel free, then I’ll do better. It might be different for other directors, but I have to feel free in order to be creative.”
Which is exactly what Xavier learns about himself during the course of the trilogy.
For Duris, who has worked on and off with Klapisch during the past 20 years, the changes in the director’s working methods also mirror his evolution as a filmmaker. “With the experience he’s gained over the years, he’s obviously become more mature in his work,” the actor says. “But, at the same time, he hasn’t lost the carefree insouciance that he had when he was younger. That means that he still takes risks, that he embraces the danger. But his vision of people, of human beings, hasn’t changed. [ He] likes people and it shows in his films.”
Indeed, since his feature debut, Riens du tout (1992), Klapisch has been telling stories that embrace their characters’ attempts to make sense of their place in the world. In their winningly humanist way, whether they’re about cities ( Paris, My Piece of the Pie), specific neighbourhoods ( When the Cat’s Away), families ( Un Air de Famille, Peut-etre), criminals ( Not For, or Against) or friends (the Xavier trilogy), they’re concerned with how individuals learn about themselves through their communities.
“I wasn’t always alert to this as a theme in my work,” Klapisch says, “but now I have to admit that it’s become more and more conscious. It hasn’t been intentional, but everything that I’ve come up with, every story that’s interested me, deals with what binds people: how boundaries exist in a family, or a group of friends, or a couple, or a company.
“If I deal with only personal problems, for me that wouldn’t be enough. And I think that I can go even further in that direction. I want to look more closely at the connection between psychology and politics. For example, what is the relationship between the intimate problems faced by individuals and globalisation?”
Chinese Puzzle reverberates with strategically placed echoes from the earlier films: separations at airports; searches for accommodation in a foreign city; evenings spent on a friend’s couch; help given to a friend to conceal an infidelity from her partner. And it is, like its two predecessors, a complicated and often brilliantly funny comedy of manners about the differing cultural faces that its characters bring to the melting-pot of which they’re a part. As Duris observes, “One of Cedric’s strengths is his desire to pursue the philosophical underpinnings of a scene, to make it light on the surface but serious underneath, which brings him very close to people he admires, like Fellini and Hawks. Only the packaging is lightweight.”
Klapisch may refer to the films as a trilogy but he hasn’t entirely closed the door on a further sequel.
“I have no idea if I will have the desire to make another film with the same characters,” he says, having obviously heard the question many times before.
“But,” he adds, “I think what’s strong about all the films is that their endings seem like new beginnings. And, for me, finding this again would be essential if I was going to add another chapter to the story.”