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L’AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE

The least politically correct character in Cédric Klapisch’s charming and innocuous fable of multicultural tolerance and fusion is, of course, the one who steals the show. Without the boorish, xenophobic, and downright hilarious remarks of William (Kevin Bishop), not to mention his gastric participation in the most memorable version of "No Woman, No Cry" ever recorded, this "Euro Pudding" (the English-language title, which, no wonder, doesn’t seem to have caught on) might have been bland indeed.

Too bad he’s just a minor character, the late-arriving brother of Wendy (Kelly Reilly), the British mother hen of half a dozen ethnically diverse students in the Barcelona apartment of the title. The protagonist is the far less interesting Xavier (Romain Duris), a French member of the household torn between following in his father’s footsteps as an economist and pursuing his own dream of becoming a writer (to judge from his voiceover narrative, he should stick to the figures). That conflict may or may not be reflected in his indecision about whether to remain faithful to girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou) back home, or pounce on the wife of a friend, but the important thing is that Tautou spends most of the film off screen and in Paris. Klapisch has never equaled the soufflé perfection of his truly delightful When the Cat’s Away (1997), but this mélange has enough savory moments to sustain you until he does. In French, Spanish, English, Catalan, and Dutch with English subtitles. (122 minutes)

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: May 23 - 29, 2003
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