Astrology: Film: Review: ‘Chinese Puzzle’ (2014)

Cohen Media Group

Cohen Media Group

Embracing and developing the Libran qualities of fairness, cooperation and balance are essential to a successful relationship. And in Chinese Puzzle, directed and written by Cédric Klapisch, Xavier Rousseau (Romain Duris) – a recurring character in Klapisch’s The Spanish Apartment and Russian Dolls – needs to learn those balancing lessons in a hurry.

Xavier is a Paris-based author on the cusp of 40 who lives with his English wife Wendy (Kelly Reilly) in a testy, decade-old marriage. One day she announces to Xavier that, while on a recent business trip to New York, she met someone new (Peter Hermann) and she’s taking their two kids to Manhattan to begin a new life with her new man. To be part of his young children’s lives, Xavier decides to follow her. However, his links to Wendy are not the only female connections he’ll have to maneuver.

His temporary Big-Apple lodging is courtesy of best friend Isabelle (Cécile de France) and her girlfriend Ju (Sandrine Holt); this couple’s infant is the result of Xavier’s sperm. And he’s still vitally in touch with former girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou), who now has children of her own, and who also comes to New York to try to get funding for her Chinese-centric project.

Further quirky coincidences abound. Xavier winds up renting an apartment, which belongs to Ju, in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown, which makes this movie into a fun tourist attraction. He also stumbles into a situation that provides him with an opportunity to snag an Asian-American wife and a visa, with predictable ensuing mayhem involving fooling the authorities who are on the prowl for fake marriages. To help sort out Xavier’s relationship woes – he now finds himself re-attracted to Martine – German philosophers drop by with their suggestions. Schopenhauer, for example, helpfully points out that the first half of life resembles the front of a piece of embroidery, while the latter half is like the back side which, in Xavier’s case, is an ugly protrusion of wayward yarns.

The saving grace, when it comes to making a success out of any complicated interpersonal connections – relationships are the domain of Venus – is that special Libran give-and-take. In Chinese Puzzle, it’s all about Jupiter’s geographic flexibility and expansiveness, and a willingness to readily cross boundaries to be with lovers, friends and family.

The fast-tempo views of Chinatown, lower Manhattan, the East Village and other Manhattan neighborhoods only serve to reinforce the notion that sometimes a seeming jumble – like an embroidery’s ratty-looking underbelly – can somehow coalesce into a breathtaking dynamism. Xavier even manages to turn in his book manuscript by its due date.

When it comes to love and Venus, we’re all on an elegant deadline.

Astrology Film Rating: ♀ ♃  (Venus, Jupiter)

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