The Schmooze

Cédric Klapisch and the Legacy of Jewish Humor

Courtesy of Cohem Media Group

It’s been 12 years since French student Xavier (Romain Duris) left his girlfriend, Martine (Audrey Tautou), to move into a Spanish apartment in “L’Auberge Espagnole,” where he met Isabelle (Cécile De France), Wendy (Kelly Reilly) and others and inspired a generation of European students to sign up for the Erasmus student exchange program.

The protagonists were later reunited in “Russian Dolls,” which takes place all over Europe. “Chinese Puzzle,” the third part of the trilogy, brings graying Xavier, now 40, to New York, where Wendy has moved with their two children to live with another man. Isabelle, in a tumultuous relationship with Ju (Sandrine Holt), is also there — and as if life weren’t already complicated enough for Xavier, old sparks are rekindled when Martine comes to visit.

“Chinese Puzzle” opened on May 16 and is a humorous depiction of multicultural, fast-paced, urban life in New York. Director Cédric Klapisch, 52, grew up in a Jewish family in a suburb of Paris and attended film school at New York University in the 1980s. He even refers to New York City as the “fifth actor.” During a visit to New York, which he calls the “capital of Jewish humor” because of Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen and others, Klapisch explained to the Forward’s Anna Goldenberg why he always feels at home on the Lower East Side and how he felt it was his duty, as part of the legacy of the Holocaust, to make comedies.

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