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Michael Guillén: I have to compliment you on the kinetic beauty of this film, the way you've captured the city, and the way you've captured your characters moving throughout the city. In all three films—L'Auberge Espagnole, Russian Dolls, and now Chinese Puzzle—you've exhibited a texture that's partly the inherent mobility of a location combined with the narrative mobility of your characters. Can you speak to how you chose your locations in New York to create the look you wanted for the city? I love how the city looks in this film!
I was living near Chinatown so I figured it was more important to shoot in that neighborhood because nobody really shoots there. I wanted to shoot real street life, and not something from a postcard. Also, because I'm French, I wanted to make sure my film didn't look "touristy." I wanted to see things from the inside; but, I kept in mind that I have a different eye than most people in America, probably because I'm French, I'm European, I see things differently. The thing I say about the ground of New York meaning more when you ride a bike? If you ride a bike in Paris and then ride a bike in New York, it's completely different.
During those seven months that I stayed in New York working on the story, I learned to trust my powers of observation. I realized that Xavier had to be like Manhattan and Manhattan had to look like Xavier, so—where he wants to have a life that's organized—New York wants to look organized but it's really a crazy city; it's not organized at all. Once I wrote the script and decided how I wanted to shoot it, it was things I observed during those seven months in New York that influenced what you saw. Another thing is that—since I shot in Paris and New York—when I did my photography in Paris, everything was grey, beige and white. In New York everything was colorful. You can see a red building, or a blue building, which is impossible in Paris. I conceived the look of the film on that. The first part in Paris was kind of depressing for the character and so I used the grey aspect of Paris in that way. Then when he moves to New York, something enthusiastic and colorful happens.
Chinese Puzzle opens Friday, May 23, 2014 at Landmark's Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco, and Landmark's Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. The film's running time is 117 minutes and is rated R. In French and English; non-English portions are subtitled in English.