- Language: French, Spanish
- Subtitles: English, Spanish
- Dubbed: Spanish, French
- Region: All RegionsAll Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- ASIN: B0000C9JFO
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #18,023 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
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Once there, he finds a flat with a group of students from other countries, including Isabelle from Belgium, Lars from Denmark, the clean freak Wendy from Britain, and Alessandro from Italy, a chronic mess-maker whom I tried to find a picture of Oscar from The Odd Couple, but it was probably buried under his mess. Yes, six, later seven students living together in a cramped apartment does make quite a monkey cage. He is also befriended by a French couple, the brain specialist Jean-Michel and his wife Anne-Sophie, who put him up for a while pending new living arrangements.
The title apartment, with the various students represents a miniaturized European Union, represented by Spain, United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and France. The students are here to mold their future into careers, and their encounters with several students from other parts of the world symbolizes the globalization that's become ever more apparent in the 1990's and the naughts. Yet one of the effects of that is a meshing of cultures to the point that one goes from being French to being European, soaking in the culture and psyche of his/her fellow students. One thus learns what it's like to be a foreigner and also to show proper respect to people from other cultures. The importance of this is demonstrated by Isabelle and some other students, who have learned Castilian, to soberly discover that one professor teaches his courses speaking Catalan, the dominant language in Barcelona. Another is when Wendy's visiting brother William, who apart from being a nuisance to the students trying to study, unwittingly offends some of them with his ignorance. Call him the British version of a redneck, someone unaware of the cultural melding taking place.
Compare that to Martine, Xavier's girlfriend, played by Amelie's Audrey Tautou. Despite having less than a combined ten minutes screen-time, there is a scene where we learn she was named after the character in a children's book who fed the farm animals. She thinks it's sexist that the women had to do all the work, yet Martine also represents a simpler, rural life that's in danger of vanishing in today's globalized world. Think of the careers post-industrial women have today. With Xavier gone to Barcelona and his miniature EC, the strain between them represents traditional simplicity versus globalization.
Xavier's studies is also a journey to find himself in this multicultural environment, but it becomes an adventure. He becomes more attuned to his surroundings, and his taking out the slightly shy, un-hip Anne-Sophie on outings, sanctioned by her absentee husband, leads to an affair.
Historically, it's interesting and apropos that this story takes place in Spain, which spearheaded the first post-Roman empire in Western Civilization, empires leading to globalism. Ditto for the name of the student programme, as Erasmus left Paris, like Xavier, and found an affinity towards humanist scholars such as Thomas More in England.
The students are well-cast, as they are like any bunch of university students I met in my time at NMSU, with Kelly Reilly (Wendy) and Cecile De France (Isabelle) pulling standout and very likeable performances. And the location shooting, be it the streets or the coloured frameworks of buildings under construction, brings in a fresh ambience. An interesting and unforgettable adventure of discovering oneself in this quick-paced, confusing globalized world.
Directed by Cédric Klapisch, "L'auberge espagnole" tells the tale of Xavier (Romain Duris), a twentysomething Parisian studying economics. Xavier decides to spend a year at the Universitat de Barcelona as an Erasmus student (a university exchange between EU member countries), and along the way he meets an assortment of other European students, locals, and transplanted French (a local at a bar offers to teach him "puta madre" Spanish, which made me laugh out loud.)
Xavier arrives in Barcelona disoriented and brokenhearted at having to leave his girlfriend and the comfort of familiarity behind. Weighted down by a myriad of bags (which brought back plenty of memories of my arriving in Spain similarly loaded down), he wanders the unfamiliar streets, alone and friendless, not speaking either language fluently (Castillano, the official language of Spain, and Catalán, the official language of Catalunya and Barcelona). After ditching the morose boarding accommodations provided by a friend of his hippie mother's, Xavier begins the grueling and expensive task of finding a flat.
His search lands him in a flat with six other Erasmus students: Londoner Wendy (a noted clean freak), Aragonese Soledad, the gorgeous Italian Alessandro, Tobias from Germany, the Dane Lars, and latecomer Isabelle from Belgium. Slowly, Xavier adjusts to his new life: an utter lack of privacy, homesickness for his girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou from Amélie), studying, balanced with the occasional joint and night out clubbing. The seven flatmates generally get along, speaking with each other in English and Spanish. A wrench is thrown into the mix when Wendy's obnoxious brother William (Kevin Bishop) comes to spend two weeks with them and ends up offending everyone.
Xavier also becomes infatuated with the wife of a French doctor working in Barcelona and the two begin an affair. Although he believes himself to be an adequate lover, Xavier is coached by the lesbian Isabelle on how to truly please a woman, and the result, as Xavier says, is "like something from the movies."
The film is beautiful to look at, showcasing the architecture of Gaudí (Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell), the swaying palm trees, blue water and sandy beaches of Barcelona, and Paris at intervals as well. The film's humor is reflected in the editing, "you are here" labels, and special effects. The music is an upbeat mix of new and old that perfectly reflects modern Europe, including contributions by Radiohead, Ali Farka Toure, Vicente Amigo, Kouz-1, Daft Punk and the late Arthur Rubinstein.
My only complaints would be the lack of extras (there was a made-for-TV documentary of the making of (or "making off" as you'll see in France and Spain) the film, European Confusion, not included here), and the rather high price. The DVD contains both the widescreen and fullscreen versions.
Overall, a gem of a film that brought back many happy memories of living in Spain (Burgos, in my case) and made me homesick for the many wonderful people and experiences I had while living there (I hope to teach in Barcelona in the near future). ¡Viva España!
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where it was playing last year - movie sounded interesting but
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