L’Auberge Espagnole

Written by:
George Wu
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Cedric Klapisch’s deft, exhilarating comedy about a Parisian spending a year in Barcelona is light-hearted fun marred only by an embarrassingly pat ending.It does for middle class European students what Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan did for New York’s upper crust youth, conveying all the naivete, self-absorption, obnoxiousness, camaraderie, and spirited freedom of youngsters on the verge of adulthood.Barcelona makes a vivid backdrop with its stunning Park Gruell, Sagrada Familia, sky lifts, narrow back streets, and beckoning night life.

Protagonist Xavier (Romain Duris, Gadjo Dilo) finds himself dealing with roommates from all over western Europe – cute, serious Spanish native Soledad (Cristina Brondo); her Danish boyfriend Lars (Christian Pagh); sensitive German Tobias (Barnaby Metschurat); peculiar Italian Alessandro (Federico D’Anna); bold Belgian lesbian Isabelle (Cecile De France); finicky Brit Wendy (Kelly Reilly); and eventually her insufferable brother William (Kevin Bishop, Muppet Treasure Island).At the same time Xavier juggles a long distance relationship with his needy girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou, Amelie, Dirty Pretty Things) while drawn toward the ungainly, introverted Anne-Sophie (Judith Godreche, Ridicule, The Man in the Iron Mask), wife of talkative neurosurgeon Jean-Michel (Xavier De Guillebon, The Taste of Others), both of whom he met on the plane to Barcelona.

Klapisch makes playful use of fast-motion and split screens, especially in scenes invoking bureaucratic red tape.He owes a great debt to his tremendous ensemble. Duris makes Xavier sympathetic in all his insecurity and impulsiveness. Reilly, getting to let loose after being wasted in Last Orders, really comes to life.De France, who won the "Most Promising Actress" Cesar for this role, is indelible, especially in a scene where she tells a story of being seduced by her Flamenco teacher (Paulina Galvez). The versatile Godreche surprises again by fully inhabiting Anne-Sophie’s awkwardness.

L’Auberge Espagnole is also known by its more literal translation, The Spanish Apartment, as well as Euro Pudding. The latter title conveys the melting pot phenomenon Europeans experience as technology continues to make the world feel ever smaller. This is nowhere more apparent than in its youth culture, pervaded by cell phones and email. The movie’s highlight comes when all the characters come together in a race against time to save Wendy from a moment of indiscretion. It is allegorical in more ways than one.

George Wu


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