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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, August 28, 2014 - Edition No 912 
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SPANISH APARTMENT, THE

SYNOPSIS:
A French economics student, 25 year old Xavier (Romain Duris), leaves his mother (Martine Demaret) and girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou) when he goes to Barcelona for a year as an Erasmus exchange student to study economics, and falls in with a French couple, Jean Michel (Xavier De Guillebon) and Anne Sophie (Judith Godreche) who put him on their sofa until he finds an apartment to share with students from a mix of nationalities. The undersized apartment becomes the scene of conflicts and connections, revelations and separations as Xavier gets himself entangled with a variety of women for a variety of reasons, including a lesbian who teaches him how to make love - sensationally - to a woman. By the end of the year, Xavier’s education includes a lesson in self-knowledge.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
So much fun it’s easy to believe the film was made up in bits and pieces by the director following actors and locations as source material, after the director visited his sister in a Spanish apartment while she was an Erasmus student. Real life infected him with the seed of an idea for a film that celebrated the Euro pudding – that blend of nationalities that defines Europe. To his credit, Cedric Klapisch kept a reasonably firm hand on the script, in that he didn’t allow himself to be seduced by the loose lifestyle to such an extent that the drama seeped out of his screenplay.

The infectious music of Spain, the cultural dynamics and the vibrancy of 20-somethings mid-stride all contribute to this party, masquerading as a film. It clearly touches some nerves, having been voted audience favourite at several Australian film festivals in 2003; that means that out of many hundreds of films, this was the one that film festival audiences enjoyed most. What this tells me is that audiences – even film festival junkies – are craving for the old fashioned movie, in which we enjoy the escapades of people like us in the streets of a good looking city. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to be challenged, but it does mean we want the challenges to be kept in perspective. The Spanish Apartment is not mindless fun, by the way, and it deals with interpersonal issues that are the mainstay of everyone’s life. It just doesn’t get heavy about it.

Review by Louise Keller:
A joyous confluence of nationalities, personalities, habits and morals, The Spanish Apartment is the life-changing milieu for it all. Cedric Klapisch’s delightful film captures every life-affirming moment of a young French economics student’s search for his dreams, as he opens his eyes to the world by travelling to a new country and opening his heart to the pulse of living. Klapisch has a light touch – from the opening credits that display national flags beside actors’ names, to the well-observed situations and inevitable heartbreaks that a group of young students encounter on a year abroad. Shot on digital camera with all the spontaneity and zest of life itself, the mood is as incongruous as the people themselves.

Yes, life’s complicated, and as Xavier tells his story and opens up his heart, there’s a simple juxtaposition of scenes where the arteries of all the Paris freeways converge into each other. It’s a superb screenplay, firmly establishing Xavier in the context of his life and his aspirations. When he finally is accepted into the chaos of the Spanish Apartment inhabited by a Swede, an Italian, a Londoner, a German and a Spaniard, he makes his bedroom home by simply pinning two photos on the wall, which capsulate his dreams: one of himself and his girlfriend, the other of himself as a young, blonde child when he dreamed of becoming a writer. The mix of music is as eclectic as the company, and there’s a wonderful sense of the fun and impermanence that is common to this age group. There are no consequences, but a sense of now and living life to the full.

This is a film about relationships, and about the confidences shared. What surprising moments arise when Xavier discovers that a lesbian can give him more tips about seduction than he ever knew as he receives a physical demonstration of how to please a woman – by the lesbian. Of course Xavier can’t wait to confide in her that her tips actually worked. We share the meals, the blackouts, the flat inspections, the cleaning up and the emotional mopping up when relationships fizzle. One of the most satisfying moments in the entire film occurs when Wendy’s English boyfriend arrives unannounced, with each flatmate well aware that Wendy is enjoying sexual pleasures from her new American boyfriend. What a scream, as each flagrantly tries to protect Wendy: the outcome is so wildly left of field that you will be smiling for weeks.

A fabulous cast is headed by Romain Duris (Gadjo Dilo, Le Divorce), the exquisite Audrey Tautou (who will always remain Amelie in our hearts), Judith Godreche as the uncool French wife ready to be seduced, Cecile de France as the Belgian lesbian Isabelle and Kelly Reilly as the very English Wendy. The Spanish Apartment is a dazzling whirl of spontaneity: a warm and funny glimpse of life after take-off.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

SPANISH APARTMENT, THE (M)
(Country: France / Spain)

(L’Auberge Espagnole)

CAST: Romain Duris, Anne Sophie, Audrey Tautou, Cecile de France, Kelly Reilly, Cristina Brondo, Federico D’Anna, Barnaby Metschurat, Christian Pagh, Kevin Bishop, Xavier De Guillebon

PRODUCER: Bruno Levy

DIRECTOR: Cédric Kapisch

SCRIPT: Cédric Kapisch

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dominique Colin

EDITOR: Francine Sandberg

MUSIC: Loik Dury

PRODUCTION DESIGN: François Emmanuelli

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 18, 2003

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: April 17, 2004







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