Directed by Cedric Klapisch. Starring Romain Duris, Judith Godreche, Audrey Tautou, Cecile de France, Kelly Reilly and Kevin Bishop.
Billed as a "riotous comedy" this delayed coming-of-age story set in Barcelona was one of the big hits in France last year. Wisely shedding its original English title (Euro-Pudding!), 'L'Auberge Espagnole' is instead literally translated as 'Pot Luck'.
The film is anything but riotous. In fact it occasionally takes itself way too seriously for such a light, frothy confection. The conceit is simple - Xavier, a 25-year old Parisian leaves for Barcelona to study for a year. His plan is join the vast bureaucracy that is corporate France on his return.
Luckily he for him, he gets in a room in a six-person apartment that's so multi-national it's probably secretly funded by the European Commission. His new housemates are (deep breath) Italian, Belgian, Spanish, Danish, German and English, but are all uniformly attractive, hip and ready to mess with Xavier's plans of study and romantic faithfulness.
The cast all acquit themselves well, and Kevin Bishop's turn as the idiot younger brother of English student Wendy will raise smiles of recognition among anyone who has endured the "amusing" xenophobia that often characterises our Sassenach neighbours.
Romain Duris is suitably sympathetic as the hero who veers from pining for his delectable girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou), to enthusiastically taking sex tips from his lesbian flatmate Isabelle, (Cécile De France). His other extra-curricular activities include corrupting the gorgeous but unworldly wife of an obnoxious French doctor he meets on the flight to Barcelona.
'L'Auberge Espagnole' overcomes its over-fussy opening to paint a loving picture of Spain's second city as a youthful wonderland of beaches and late-night bars. The characterisations of the various nationalities are inevitably simplistic but generally on target, and the photography is suitably warm and vivid.
As a vignette of student life in Europe's hippest city, it is eminently watchable, but director Cedric Klapisch feels the need to take a pop at the drudgery of the world of modern French business in a contrived and misplaced coda. Like the novelist Michel Houellbecq, Klapisch is disgusted by corporate life, adding a vaguely sour note to a generally charming and diverting film.