Indie & Foreign
L’Auberge espagnole (2002)

I remember feeling inspired by the international vibe of this movie when I saw it in 2002; but re-watching it now, it's painfully clear writer-director Klapisch constructed a self-serving fantasy. There's still a cool vibe to be found here and some nice scenes of Barcelona, but you'll have to endure some major assholery to get to them.

Rating  

A rousing appeal to travel and adultery.

[do action=”play-by-play-spoilers”/]

[do action=”moment” emo=”Biting” title=”The madness of French bureaucracy.”/]

Long before Xavier gets to travel to Spain, the movie spends a long time showcasing the madness that is French bureaucracy. If you’ve seen The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, this will surely remind you of Asterix’s quest for Permit A 38 in the Place that Sends You Mad. I guess the French see these as universal truths, but from everything I gather about French administration, this insanity is pretty specific to France.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Disappointing” title=”I don’t think we’re gonna fall in love with Audrey Tautou in this one.”/]

The first time I saw this movie was long before the release of Amelie, so I didn’t remember that Tautou was in this one. It’s not a surprise; she’s not exactly her charming, delicious self here. Rather, she’s the clingy, somewhat pathetic girlfriend which you know Xavier will dump the first chance he gets. Knowing how Tautou eventually became the world’s French darling, she’s definitely wasted here.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Creepy” title=”Jean-Michel and Anne-Sophie, your typical co-national expatriates.”/]

The movie wastes no time telling us how pathetic Jean-Michel and Anne-Sophie are as a couple, even while Xavier benefits from their incredible generosity by surfing their couch for days on end. If you’re paying attention at this point, you’ll be able to infer what happens next based on the portrayals of Martine and Anne-Sophie. The movie isn’t being exactly subtle.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Fun” title=”The gang interviews Xavier, chaos ensues.”/]

And finally, we reach the uplifting heart of this movie as Xavier meets “the gang” and moves into the Spanish apartment. This aspect is the essential emotional promise of this movie: a ragtag gang of foreign students in Barcelona, all getting along famously despite the Babel-like mix of languages. It’s pretty irresistible.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Creepy” title=”Wendy is so British it’s ridiculous.”/]

I don’t know what it is; perhaps her eyes… But Wendy is ridiculously British. Ask a French illustrator to draw a British girl, and I guarantee that nine times out of ten she’ll look like Wendy. She’s a visual national cliché.

[do action=”moment” emo=”WTF” title=”Xavier nearly rapes Anne-Sophie.”/]

What the hell?! It’s one thing to push through a little resistance, but the scene where Xavier kisses Anne-Sophie and won’t take no for an answer is just damn creepy. The worst part is Xavier bragging to Isabelle afterwards that women are all sluts who’ll say no until they say yes.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Infuriating” title=”You deserve to be sad, you little shit.”/]

Xavier is having an affair with a married woman, and yet he has the gall to be all mopey and sad when Martine finally dumps his sorry ass. The level of self-pity in this movie is terrible… It’s like the director wrote this to justify his own shitty actions in real life.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Facepalm” title=”Meet William, Wendy’s shithead little brother.”/]

William is weird. He’s obviously set up as a racist prick, but I wonder what’s his role in the story. I get the vibe that he’s there to show us how open-minded and non-racist the guys at the apartment are. Is that his role, to show us how cool our gang is? Because that’s heavy-handed.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Awkward” title=”Wendy cheats on her boyfriend. Hilarity ensues.”/]

Poor Alistair. He looks like a cool guy, and he comes to Barcelona with flowers in hand to surprise his girlfriend. In the world of L’Auberge espagnole, though, that makes him a chum and a loser. Wendy is busy cheating on him with an American guy she doesn’t even like, and everyone joins in to fool her boyfriend. Boyfriend fooled, everyone’s happy! Christ, I didn’t remember this movie being so damn pro-cheating. It’s like the director had an affair in real life, felt guilty, and decided to write this contrived little fantasy to justify himself.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Frustrating” title=”Just to prove my point, Xavier never faces the consequences of sleeping with a married woman.”/]

Xavier barely gets told by Jean-Michel when he finds out about his wife’s affair. But that’s OK, remember? Jean-Michel is an asshole, after all. And Anne-Sophie, although she says Jean-Michel is the love of her life, obviously isn’t truly happy with him because he treats her like shit. And so, Xavier gets to mop around a bit, and when it’s time to leave Barcelona, Anne-Sophie and her cuckold husband show up for a farewell drink. Screw consequences!

[do action=”moment” emo=”Cliche” title=”Xavier quits his job. He’s the only one who didn’t see it coming.”/]

Who cares about life security and career? In movies, when your dream is to become a writer, you just have to quit your job and lo and behold, you got a bestselling book published.


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