Russian Dolls (2004) Review
(More customer reviews)Cedric Klapisch's 2005 film LES POUPEES RUSSES is a sequel to his effort of three years before, L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE ("The Spanish Apartment"). It's a very different sort of story. While the first film centered on the zany camaraderie that developed between several European students in Barcelona, LES POUPEES RUSSES focuses on the lovelives of a selected few characters, though Klapisch does briefly reunite the cast of the Spanish apartment. This review assumes that the reader has already seen L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, a fine film I do recommend.
As LES POUPEES RUSSES opens, Xavier is now thirty, making his living in Paris ghostwriting celebrity autobiographies and scripting soap operas, while the manuscript of his Barcelona novel languishes in neglect. He has gone through numerous relationships since his return from Spain, and wallows in self-pity with Isabelle and Martine, both still alone as well. After an exposition on the misery of these characters, the main plot is set into motion by two events. One is Xavier's commute to London to work on a script with Wendy, now a writer herself. The other is William's engagement to a Russian dancer and move to Saint Petersburg, where he invites all his friends for the wedding. Though I shall avoid spoilers here, I can say that it is through his involvement in these goings-on that Xavier finally finds the stability he was looking for.
Lars, Tobias, Soledad, and Alessando only appear in the Saint Petersburg scenes, and are granted only a few lines each. Though it is rather curious that these characters were brought for probably the most expensive filming in spite of their peripheral roles, the viewer feels no outrage that they get so little screen time. At this point, one's sympathy is entirely with Xavier, Wendy, and William and his Russian bride, and so seeing some of the faces from L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE adds only a nice highlight on the years that have gone by.
For this reviewer, intrigued by the references to the building of a united Europe in L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, the comments on society and politics in this film were powerful as well. If LES POUPEES RUSSES does not overtly speak of Europe's future, as in the first film when the students question the place of Catalan, the story is nonetheless based on growing changes in European youth. One is increased mobility. That a bunch of old friends from Spain can reunite in Saint Petersburg is a plausible development speaks much of how much young people travel now. Another is multilingualism, dialogues in LES POUPEES RUSSES are in English, French, Spanish, or Russian (with subtitles where necessary). And through the involvement of William's engagement to a Russian, the film shows that European integration goes beyond the borders of merely the EU.
But LES POUPEES RUSSES is also a beautiful love story. I was never content with the other portion of the plot of the first film, where alongside European changes we viewed the story of a young man finding himself. In Barcelona, the twenty-five year-old Xavier was acting like someone several years younger and some of the twists were silly. Here, however, the relationship between Xavier and the women he meets is entirely convincing, and the ending is one of the most satisfying and heartwarming I know of in film.
This reviewer finds himself at around the same point in life as Xavier, and resides in Europe with a similar multilingual and mobile lifestyle. Perhaps that is why the film is so touching for me, but I regrettably can't say what younger viewers in the United States might think of the film. Still, anyone is sure to finds LES POUPEES RUSSES a well-made and entertaining production.
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RUSSIAN DOLLS - DVD Movie