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L' auberge espagnole(2002)
As part of a job that he is promised, Xavier, an economics student in his late twenties, signs on to a European exchange program in order to gain working knowledge of the Spanish language. Promising that they'll remain close, he says farewell to his loving girlfriend, then heads to Barcelona. Following his arrival, Xavier is soon thrust into a cultural melting pot when he moves into an apartment full of international students. An Italian, an English girl, a boy from Denmark, a young woman from Belgium, a German and a girl from Andalucia all join him in a series of adventures that serve as an initiation to life.
For more about L' auberge espagnole and the L' auberge espagnole Blu-ray release, see the L' auberge espagnole Blu-ray Review
Starring: Cécile De France, Romain Duris, Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou
Director: Cedric Klapisch
» See full cast & crew
L' auberge espagnole Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 17, 2009
A hilarious, witty, and perhaps a bit depressing Cedric Klapisch's "L'auberge espagnole" a.k.a "The Spanish Apartment" was one of the biggest international hits in 2002. Thanks to a motley crew of characters and an interesting, though fittingly veiled in humor, view on the changing landscape of Europe the film generated far more critical reviews than it actually deserved. Courtesy of French distributors Studio Canal.
Xavier (Romain Duris, The Beat That My Heart Skipped), an ambitious French student and writer, lands in Barcelona where he befriends other students from Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Belgium. He leaves behind a melodramatic girlfriend (Audrey Tautou, Amelie) who refuses to understand his motives to attend a foreign university.
Clueless and without a place to stay, Xavier crashes with a newlywed French couple he meets at the airport in Barcelona. His hosts like him, especially the wife (Judith Godrèche, Speak To Me Of Love) who seems bored out of her mind. Xavier sleeps with her and leaves. He moves in with his international friends who quickly embrace him and completely transform his personality.
L'auberge espagnole is one of the most entertainingly critical films to come out of France in a very long time. It is scripted as a comedy but deep underneath it is a political message many critics, especially on this side of the Atlantic, failed to grasp. As a result, the film received plenty of mixed reviews it certainly did not deserve.
L'auberge espagnole premiered at a time when Europe was openly divided on the so-called mass unification process. While on paper the members of the European Union were all fascinated with the new borderless Europe, in reality they were actually more frustrated with it than anything else, which is exactly how Xavier's trip begins – with plenty of frustration and few, if any, expectations.
After Xavier is welcomed by the foreign students in their tiny but friendly apartment Klapsich really gets down to business. Each character, and they all happen to be from countries where the division I mentioned above was certainly something local politicians had to deal with, is stereotyped with hilarious but not random "defects" – the Italian (Federico D'Anna) is disorganized, chaotic, and impulsive, the German (Barnaby Metschurat) is too methodical (when Xavier first interviews with his roommates the German student is the only one who takes notes on a piece of paper) and precise for everyone else's taste, the Spaniard (Cristina Brondo) too temperamental, the Dane (Christian Pagh) uncommonly friendly and naive, the Brit (Kelly Reilly) reserved and critical, and the Belgian (Cécile De France) willing to talk about what everyone else isn't.
As the story progresses, and Xavier opens up to his roommates and the night life of Barcelona, Klapisch begins his manipulative game (which is where most of the funny in this film comes from). The students and their "defects" are placed in a number of confusing scenes (the Belgian, an experienced lesbian, teaches Xavier how to approach girls, but he loses his girlfriend; the Spaniard gets involved in a heated discussion about Cataluña, etc) and their reactions are used to denote the type of obstacles united Europe has been struggling with.
Finally, the manner in which L'auberge espagnole is filmed in is just as carefully executed, or misleading if you will. Klapisch routinely splits the screen into numerous smaller screens (apparently imitating the European Union with all of its states) where different stories are in progress, and lets their dialogs overlap each other. The result is a colorful mish-mash of sounds practically impossible to deconstruct. Obviously, the intent here is to highlight how frustrating, if not pointless, the much touted unification of Europe has become.
L' auberge espagnole Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with VC-1, and granted a 1080p transfer Cedric Klapisch's L'auberge espagnole a.k.a The Spanish Apartment arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Studio Canal.
I don't believe there is much you would find with this VC-1 encode to be unhappy with. The color-scheme looks very pleasing – yellows, blues, whites, greens, and blacks are lush and well-saturated. The film's intended soft look is certainly kept intact, and I definitely did not detect any examples of DNR manipulation. Contrast is also satisfying and a quick comparison with the R1 SDVD release by 20th Century Fox reveals how substantially stronger the Blu-ray disc is when it comes to detail. Furthermore, even though I noticed a few minor bits of edge-enhancement during some of the outdoor scenes in the second half of the film, I wasn't disturbed by it. In fact, L'auberge espagnole looks as natural and unprocessed as I hoped it would. Finally, the print provided by Studio Canal is notably healthy as well – there aren't any specks, debris, or dirt to detract from your viewing experience. (Note: This is Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
L' auberge espagnole Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Studio Canal have provided an outstanding French: DTS-HD MA 5.1 track for L'auberge espagnole. I was very much looking forward to hearing the audio mix on this disc and, suffice to say, my expectations were met. First of all, the dialog is extremely easy to follow and there aren't any balance issues to report with it. Second, the diverse music soundtrack is blended with the dialog quite nicely – there aren't any impressive show-off scenes that will test the muscles of your home equipment, but the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track certainly adds a lot more that I never noticed on the R1 SDVD release (the farewell scene for example at the very end of L'auberge espagnole where everyone dances and then kisses goodbye sounds terrific). Finally, I did not detect any hissings, pops, or cracks. Optional English and French subtitles are provided for the main feature.
L' auberge espagnole Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are a number of supplemental materials on this disc but, unfortunately, they are not subtitled in English. They are also in standard-def PAL, so unless you have a player capable of converting PAL-NTSC, or a TV set capable of accepting PAL signal directly, you won't be able to access the following:
- Making of L'auberge espagnole
- 14 deleted scenes (with a commentary by Cedric Klapisch)
- A short film by Cedric Klapisch: Le poison russe
- Video Calibration kit
- Audio Calibration kit
L' auberge espagnole Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I've seen L'auberge espagnole more than a dozen times now, and though I certainly find its tone, execution, and playfulness to be notably less convincing than that of its sequel Les poupées russes, I enjoy going back to it every now and then. As it is the case with most Klapisch films they get better, and perhaps a tad more sentimental (just the way I like modern French cinema), with repeated viewings. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of Studio Canal, comes highly recommended if Region-B locks do not bother you.
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