L'Auberge Espagnole

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L'Auberge Espagnole

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The title of Cédric Klapisch's bright, infectious comedy L'Auberge Espagnole means "the Spanish inn," but as a slang term, it means something like "Euro-pudding," a term that perfectly encapsulates a continent with blurring borders, where national and global identities are thrown into the great melting pot. In the new European Union, capitalism is the only shared language, and those young people not in a hurry to adopt it have to contend with other foreign tongues, which can isolate internationals from one another or break down communication altogether. But in Klapisch's idealistic world, a group of mismatched college roommates looks like the model for future civilization, as they patch their crazy-quilt nationalities into a peaceful and progressive unit that understands globalization in more than just economic terms. Not since Lukas Moodysson's Together has communal living been depicted with such warmth and feeling for the entire ensemble, but Klapisch finds the prospect much more harmonious, mainly because the language barrier is easier to transcend than Marxist ideology. The immensely likable Romain Duris plays the conflicted hero, a young Frenchman who leaves behind his longtime girlfriend (Audrey Tautou) for a year at the University of Barcelona, where his father claims he'll get the Spanish education he needs to secure a place in the business world. After bunking in uncomfortable places, including the couch of an uptight neurologist (Xavier De Guillebon) and his beautiful new wife (Judith Godrèche), Duris scours the city in search of a more long-term arrangement. With students clamoring for expensive and limited housing, Duris lucks into a cozy apartment crammed with six quirky characters from six different countries. None of them speak a common language, but their bigger problems are practical ones, such as the lack of privacy, a refrigerator cordoned off into well-guarded territories, and the teeming piles of trash that accumulate on every surface. The premise may sound like a pitch for a network sitcom, but Klapisch and his cast ensure that it's too hot for TV, giving the close quarters a relaxed, lived-in quality that brims with humor, sharp observation, and offhand sexiness. At a certain point, Klapisch gets so wrapped up with peeling off comic and romantic episodes from his endlessly fertile premise that he forgets his larger concerns about a generation about to graduate into the new Europe. But in L'Auberge Espagnole, the apartment banter syncopates with such a fresh and appealing rhythm, it already speaks volumes for him.

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