15 December 2005 | dbdumonteil
life isn't a long quiet river
So, here's one of the most anticipated movies of the year 2005 and the sequel to one of the biggest French hits in 2002: "l'Auberge Espagnole" which also acts as a commendable and valuable ambassador for French cinema abroad, "les Poupees Russes".
Lucid, the director Cédric Klapisch didn't opt for "l'Auberge Espagnole 2". Anyway one can't renew the Erasmus stay (which I am currently experiencing!) a second time. "Les Poupees Russes" has nothing in common with the corny sequels that Hollwood cinema has been cramming us for years. And as Francis Veber once said: "what is a sequel? It's generally a shoddy remake of the original movie". So Cédric Klapisch finds again his character of Xavier and undertook to tell his life in his early thirties. Five years after his experience as an Erasmus student in Spain, he is back. He had said in the first movie:"my life has always been a mess and will always be...". These words appear to be visionary. His life is far from satisfying him: he has become a writer but he has to pen biographies of celebrities and scenarios for mawkish sitcoms. His private life is hardly better: he struggles hard to find the perfect girl though his charismatic part. In short, it's a rather murky life and have a look at the cover of the film. It depicts Xavier who moves forward, with a puzzled air. He is surrounded by pretty girls. Which one is the the perfect one? And anyway, does the perfect girl exist? And why do we have to love just one girl and not several ones. These are some the questions that Klapisch raises and doesn't bring a definitive answer to them. It's up to the audience to think about them on account of Klapisch's piece of work.
If Klapisch had built "l'Auberge Espagnole" from start to finish with as a source, his memories of cinema student in New York and her sister's who lived one year in Spain with other European fellows under the same roof, here one has to look in Truffaut's filmography for his credentials, more specifically the Antoine Doinel saga. Truffaut had shot in a series of films, the evolution of his favorite hero in his professional and private life. With "les Poupees Russes", it seems that we also have this beginning of device with so far better results for I am not really a Truffaut devotee. Would Xavier be the Antoine Doinel of the 2000's? Anything goes... Klapisch has his own trademark to shot the life or rather the various difficulties of his main figure and one is happy to realize that his film writing still works wonders. "Les Poupees Russes" looks like a sequel of a little maladjusted play lets in which Xavier tries to order a life eventually beyond his control. These play lets encompass a great thickness in their writing and a visual richness, the whole with a dash of humor and nostalgia. Their chief force is honesty: a substantial number of situations rings true and it's highly likely that the viewer has already known some of the filmed circumstances. And there's always this typical feature from the director to make a trite situation a dense one.
One word about the cast: it's a topnotch one. Romain Duris shines in a part that was tailor-made for him. He has never been so good with Klapisch. All his European sidekicks are present with a special mention to Kelly Reilly and Kevin Bishop as William, the future married in a more subdued part than in "l'Auberge Espagnole". He has found a soul mate and matured in spite of an explosive apparition: "Hello Paris! Bonjour Paris!".
After the bitter memory left by Klapisch's adventure in the film noir with "Ni Pour Ni Contre (Bien Au Contraire), 2003", the year 2005 saw him on clover again with a forte he had tapped in "le Péril Jeune" (1994): a right chronicle on young people of different ages and an accurate appraisal of their feelings. "Les Poupees Russes" constitutes the second opus of a more than estimable duo. Will there be a third chapter on Xavier's life?