Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Movie Log: L'Auberge Espagnole

The Wife and I know so little of any other languages that our initial attempts to translate L'Auberge Espagnole came out to "something about an eggplant." Needless to say, that was wrong -- the title actually translates as The Spanish Apartment.

It's another one of those "bunch of young people finding their way in the world" stories, beloved by other young people since time immemorial. The story follows a young Frenchman, Xavier, who is going to Barcelona for a semester-abroad sort of deal, and he ends up taking a room in an apartment with several other students, each carefully from a different country: English Wendy, German Lars, Belgian Isabelle, Spanish Soledad, and Tobias, whose nationality I didn't catch.

And then not a lot of plot happens: they're all young, they're all living in the same apartment, so they talk and eat and drink and run around the city. Xavier has a girlfriend back home, Martine, but he also lusts after his female roommates and carries on an affair with a married woman. (After getting how-to-seduce-a-woman lessons from the experienced and lesbian Isabelle.) There are romantic subplots among the supporting cast as well, and some comic relief from Wendy's loutish younger brother, who comes for an extended visit.

It looks like an ensemble cast, but Xavier is in nearly every shot and probably every scene -- this is clearly his story, and the point of the Spanish Apartment is that it inspires him, once he graduates to what looks like a great fonctionnaire position in one of those huge French government bureaucracies, to chuck it all and try to become a novelist (living either on the good graces of his mother or the French state; the movie is smart enough not to specify).

And who doesn't love a movie about being young and free and unencumbered, attractive and living with a bunch of other attractive people, some of whom you might even get a chance to sleep with? I found L'Auberge Espagnole to be charming, if a bit obvious, and I probably would have liked it better if I'd been able to have the volume turned up higher. (We had it turned down, assuming that it was a foreign-language movie, because our sons were going to sleep. But it's a multiple-language movie, and in English more often than not, which meant the subtitles kept cutting out in the middle of complicated dialogue -- and this movie is all about dialogue.) So, if you're going to see it, make sure you're ready to both read and listen to get the full effect.

By the way, the current box cover overstates Audrey Tatou's role -- she's the girlfriend back in Paris. She's in and out of the movie -- it is an important part -- but more out than it, by screen time. The guy peeking over her right shoulder on the cover is our hero Xavier, the woman behind him is Isabelle, and the two on her other side are Lars and Wendy.

1 comment:

Jessica Strider said...

I got memed a while back for the Kreativ Blogger, and just tagged you if you're interested.

scififanletter.blogspot.com/2009/02/kreativ-blogger-meme.html

Thanks for posting interesting stuff!

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