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IFC presents

Russian Dolls (2006)

"Writing is sorting out the mess of life."- Romain Duris (Xavier)

Stars: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cecile de France, Kelly Reilly
Other Stars: Kevin Bishop, Evguenya Obraztsova
Director: Cedric Klapisch

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains language and nudity)
Run Time: 02h:09m:11s
Release Date: 2006-09-26
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+A-A- C-


DVD Review

In Cedric Klapisch’s L’Auberge Espagnole, Xavier (Romain Duris) begins as a likable French student primed for life in the corporate world. The innocent needs to experience life, and he changes drastically based on his connections with international roommates hailing from diverse European areas. He does make some mistakes, but appears ready in the end to move towards a better life. Russian Dolls returns to Xavier and reveals that perhaps he still needs to mature before succeeding in his personal life. His relationships with women rarely progress beyond the quick fling, and even his attempts to do the right thing result in failure.

Xavier’s professional life contains even more disarray than his unfortunate personal life. Working in Venice for an awful television soap opera, he strives to craft unique writing but instead faces requests from executives to add more clichés. This is truly bottom-of-the-barrel work and makes his new job of writing the memoirs of a selfish young model (Lucy Gordon) actually appear more promising. Xavier speaks several languages, including English, which helps him to gain a job writing stories in English. This reunites Xavier with the charming Wendy (Kelly Reilly), a red-haired Londoner who may connect with him on a deeper level. Will this spark lead to a promising relationship? His past experiences make the prognosis doubtful, but Xavier is not beyond hope. Perhaps their strong friendship will keep her from joining the growing list of past loves for this charismatic heartbreaker.

In similar fashion to his previous work, Klapisch utilizes creative methods to keep the story original. While Xavier interviews with clueless executives, we view shots of the character playing a tune and dancing in the background. After one positive romantic interlude, a silly sequence presents Xavier riding a horse in complete bliss. Klapisch also adjusts the speed of certain images to create delightful sequences that will stay with you for a long time. One scene with a tearful Wendy strolling through London offers stunning beauty while conveying the character’s mournful emotional state. This style could distract viewers hoping for straightforward romance, but it helps to deliver a much stronger picture. The off-kilter approach avoids the pretentious route and keeps the story upbeat during the slower moments.

Romain Duris gives a strong performance in the difficult role of Xavier, who often acts selfishly towards his friends. The character is more world-weary this time, which allows his acting to expand into more interesting territory. Audrey Tautou again receives high billing as Martine, but her character plays a minor role in the overall picture. She is more likable this time, and offers correct barbs against Xavier’s troubled state. His relationship with her son is warm and helps to reveal his amiable qualities. Cecile de France shines as Xavier’s confidante Isabelle, a lesbian who works on television as a financial advisor. Kelly Reilly is the standout as Wendy and offers a more assured performance than in the first picture. The red-haired darling’s prominent role is memorable and makes the final outcome especially welcome.

Russian Dolls provides a worthy continuation to L’Auberge Espagnole and returns most of that film’s key characters. The complete reunion occurs at the wedding of Wendy’s brother William (Kevin Bishop), which takes place in St. Petersburg. This attractive Russian city is an excellent locale and is one of the many impressive sites depicted. The striking exterior scenes enhance the European atmosphere and help it to vary from the typical romantic tale. The story’s minor drawbacks are less noticeable because they appear within exciting locations like Paris and London. This approach helps Klapisch to generate a breezy, engaging film that serves as a worthy follow-up to its enjoyable predecessor.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Much of Russian Dolls' allure comes from its dazzling views of beautiful European cities like London, Paris, and St. Petersburg, and the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer presents these images in stunning fashion. The bright colors and impressive scenery shine in this picture and lead to an enjoyable viewing. A minimal amount of grain appears on the screen and helps to deliver a strong presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Cedric Klapisch uses repeated music cues in the story to effectively convey the emotional content. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track presents these songs well and with considerable power. The rear speakers also receive solid work throughout the film. The overall transfer is slightly below the premier releases, but it still provides worthy entertainment.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Killshot, Clerks 2, The Protector, I Am a Sex Addict, Kill the Poor
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This release's lone extra feature is the nine-minute featurette The Making of Russian Dolls, which depicts the filming of some of the key scenes. The locations shown include the Eurostar train station, the wedding building, and silly green-screen footage of Romain Duris pretending to ride a horse. This feature avoids the promotional fluff of many DVD extras, but it fails to provide more than minor interest during the short running time.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

Russian Dolls' Xavier hopes to become an adult, but finds it difficult to avoid old habits and achieve success. His efforts to find the “perfect girl” and write something meaningful lead to a fun, insightful tale that should please viewers looking for an alternative to the typical Hollywood romance.

Dan Heaton 2006-11-02