MOVIE REVIEW | ***FOREIGN LANGUAGE WEEKEND*** L’auberge espagnole (2002)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s nothing that hadn’t already been dine in movies like Reality Bites and He Died With a Felafel in His Hand, and god knows how many hundreds of movies before them.”

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The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again.   But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.

“When you first arrive in a new city, nothing makes sense. Everything’s unknown, virgin.”

In English speaking countries, European movies often come with an automatically assumed polish of high brow, artistic integrity.  But in reality, Europe makes just as much formulaic, low brow, easily digestible fluff as Hollywood.  For instance, when I see a title like L’auberge espagnole, I have no idea what it means, but it immediately sounds like beautiful people, living in beautiful cities, eating great food while they solve their beautiful problems.  When I see a title like Euro Pudding, it immediately sounds like bullshit.  In the end, L’auberge espagnole (translated in the subtitles as Euro Pudding), is a bit of both.

French uni student Xavier (Romain Duris) moves to study abroad for a year in Barcelona.  Early on, he meets a couple of fellow Frenchmen, a doctor and his wife, Anne-Sophie (Judith Godreche).  Initially staying with them in their swanky apartment, Xavier eventually moves into a share house with six other flat mates, all of different nationalities, including German, Italian, Spanish and English.  Never really a clashing of cultures, the housemates generally only ever learn and grow through their differences.

After a short period of feeling like an outsider, Xavier embraces life in Barcelona and begins to learn about what life in the city can be via the locals he befriends and the many varied perspectives of his many housemates.  But things get complicated when he begins to neglect his long term girlfriend at home in France (Audrey Tautou as Martine), and develop feelings for the married Anne-Sophie.

Take away the exotic location and nationalities of the main cast, and L’auberge espagnole is some pretty stock standard, clichéd shit.  A year in the life of some twenty somethings still trying to figure out what it means to be adults.  It’s nothing that hadn’t already been done in movies like Reality Bites and He Died With a Felafel in His Hand, and god knows how many hundreds of movies before them.
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Actually, I’m probably being a little hard on this movie, because it’s not that bad, and for the most part, I found it enjoyable.  But all of that was undone in the last scene when it resorted to an overdone trope that I just can’t stand.  As Xavier reflects on the adventures we have just seen, L’auberge espagnole cuts to him sitting at a computer writing a book called L’auberge espagnole.  Yep, he’s writing the story we’ve just seen.  Too many writers find themselves and the act of writing so fascinating that they have to include it in their work, even when it adds nothing to the story.  And seeing that here basically washed away the modest goodwill the two hours before it had built up.

L’auberge espagnole 
Directed By – Pascale Ferran
Written By – Guillaume Bréaud, Pascale Ferran

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about L’auberge espagnole?
Roger Ebert
The New York Times

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