Saturday, January 24, 2009

L'Auberge Espagnole (2002)

For the most part I did enjoy Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the other film I saw this year that was set in Barcelona. But I was a little surprised when it won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) because I really didn't think it was anything special. Parts of it come off like a tourism video that you might grab on your way out of the public library, which suddenly made a lot of sense when I found out that the city of Barcelona actually picked-up the tab for production costs. Anyway, In Bruges is a lot funnier and more complex, and, getting to the point, so is L'Auberge Espagnole. It's an honest look at the experience of crowded apartment-living with a diverse group of people, but about a thousand times more worthwhile than any similarly-themed American sit-com. The city itself is an important character, introduced to us in a completely natural way, not with narrated scenes featuring famous landmarks. Xavier is an enjoyable protagonist with some legitimate drama, but it wouldn't be enough without his delightful flatmates, whom at first he wants desperately to be accepted by, in part because: "It was like I'd always lived in this mess. Their bickering was like the constant drone in my head since childhood." There are some touching moments but it never fully devolves into sentimental stuff about the international languages of friendship and love, thankfully.

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