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Cédric Klapisch

Interview with Cédric Klapisch for his latest film Chinese Puzzle

By Margot Cadic

FranceInLondon: Chinese Puzzle is the third film of the series that began in 2002 with l’Auberge Espagnole. What prompted you to make a third one? 
Cédric Klapisch: The idea was really to follow the same characters throughout their lives, because I thought it would be interesting to show them at 25, at 30, then 40. It was interesting for me and for the cast to have the same characters but who had changed in some way each time. Especially for this last film, because when we saw them last it was 10 years ago, and so for Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou and Cecile de France, we had to re-invent their characters in some ways. This was rather exciting.
FIL: How did you come up with the main plot line? Did you consider different possibilities? 
CK: Yes I did actually, during the 8 years between Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle I considered many options, one being that Xavier (Romain Duris) and Wendy (Kelly Reilly) would still be together. At first I was going to keep them together and I started writing the script wanting to talk about a happy couple. I wanted them to have children and be happy but then I realised it made it very difficult to make the film interesting with this happy family scenario, so I realised that I had to come up with a conflict. So from the separation everything else follows, and it leads to Wendy leaving for New York and then the whole story unfolded from there. We see how difficult it is to bring up children in two different countries. It was a lot more interesting. It also gave me the possibility to show how the concept of family life has changed in the last 20 years, and how many more families are re-constituted.
FIL: Was the ending of the story obvious to you or come to you naturally?
CK: It wasn’t really natural. The film was really about life being unpredictable, so it’s not something obvious or natural, it’s always unpredictable. Life in general is always unpredictable and no one knows what is going to happen tomorrow, even less so in 10 years from now, so I think that’s what’s great about life and storytelling. Story-telling especially is related to the fact that everything is unpredictable, and that we’re curious to follow that next step. I think we can relate this to the craze about a TV series where after each episode we wonder what’s going to happen next, and we’re hooked on what comes next.
FIL: How did you decide which characters to keep or not for this film? 
CK: It was kind of obvious which ones I would keep. First of all I picked those who were better known. In addition, the ones I chose had things in common and had more of a relationship.  It clearly shows when they (Xavier, Wendy, Isabelle and Martine) are in the subway scene together and Xavier is standing and you can tell that he is grateful to them for how they have contributed to his life. So that’s why I picked those three women because I think they were the key contributors in Xavier’s life.
FIL: Was the shooting different from the others before? Did the actors change from the first time you worked with them?
CK: This shooting was clearly very different from the two others because they are stars now and they weren’t at first, so it did change in terms of planning and scheduling the movie. There were also good things about their change as they were a lot more experienced. At the beginning of l’Auberge Espagnole they were young actors, very vivacious and spontaneous, but very inexperienced. Now that they have become stars they have worked with so many directors and they are used to different skills and different ways of acting that it actually becomes impressive for a director to shoot with them because they are so experienced.
Since you named your film Chinese Puzzle, FranceInLondon would like to assess your Chinese portrait.
FIL: If you were a season, which one would you be? 
CK: Autumn. I'm not sure why but I think there is something poetic about autumn.  Also I like transitions and autumn is like the end of something but also the beginning of something else. Maybe more so than the others or spring.
FIL: If you were an animal, which one would you be? 
CK: A cheetah because it was my favourite animal as a child.
FIL: If you were a game, what would you be? 
CK: GO, because a game of GO is like going on a journey, like travelling and going to another country.
FIL: If you were a tree, which one would you be?
CK: I like complicated trees, like an oak or a sequoia. Trees that are big and complicated.
FIL: If you were a country, which one would you be? 
CK: Brazil. I’m not sure if it’s the football that’s influencing me (laughing). I like Brazil because I like Brazilian people and their diversity. I like the music there, the fact that it's chaos but nice. I like the idea that chaos could be something enthusiastic rather than a problem.
FIL: If you were an object, what would you be? 
CK: A designer chair or a table. Something natural and something un-natural at the same time.


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