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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, English - Hearing Impaired, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
    The Spanish Apartment
    20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 117 mins . M15+ . PAL


    The Spanish Apartment is a French arthouse film revolving around a year in the life of Xavier, a likely young Parisian lad who spends 12 months studying in Barcelona. The studying, however, we see precious little of – that would intrude rudely upon the numerous shots of European youngsters lounging about in share house slothdom, loco Spanish nights on the town, and un peu d'amour.

    Xavier rocks up in Barcelona with accommodation that was organised by his possessive, annoying hippie mother, which, unsurprisingly, isn’t really the home away from home Xavier was hoping for. So, he goes in search of an apartment. Or, more specifically, The Spanish Apartment.

    To follow is an account of the lives and loves of attractive young Europeans playing in what is arguably the playground of Europe. And, of course, Xavier’s story. Unfortunately, this isn’t really too much of a story. Certainly not enough to warrant almost two hours of your butt on that lounge. And it’s a crying shame that the movie meanders somewhat aimlessly and drags on for far too long, because it has enormous potential to be more than it is, and some absolutely fantastic moments in the storyline, editing and cinematography.

    The best movie moments are borne of the interplay between the housemates of The Spanish Apartment, where the script displays quite some insight into the relationships between young people in a share house, particularly from different backgrounds. As someone who has worked in Barcelona, and lived in a share house with 60 travellers in London, this reviewer is the voice of experience. The requisite laughs and tears are all very believably played out by the young, foreign cast. The shame of it all is the fact that this wasn’t more of the focus of the film. We could have easily done with more developed storylines of incidents between the housemates, and less self indulgent rambling from Xavier.

    Not that he’s not sweet. Romain Duris is adorable, in a slap this idiot in the face then give him a bearhug kinda way, as the confused, bemused French economics student who secretly wants to be a writer. In fact, the performances across the board are very, very enjoyable. For a young, relatively unknown cast, they give honest, likeable portrayals of their characters, and their interplay is natural and fun. Unfortunately, the cast on the whole really aren’t given enough to do. Particularly Audrey Tautou, best known for her starring role in the gorgeous arthouse favourite Amelie, who plays the girlfriend Xavier leaves behind to pursue his Spanish adventure. Tautou lights up the screen, and is worthy of far more than the rather one dimensional, finicky, hard done by character she is encumbered with.

    The editing and cinematography is quite like the movie in that there are some absolutely fantastic moments, which are much too few and far between. The opening sequence alone will fill you with anticipation. The film keeps it going for the first 15 minutes or so, with some great use of multi screen sequences and fast motion. I don’t know if the editors then forgot the cool little tricks they’d learnt, or got a little lazy, because the fun stops around there. It’s resumed far, far later in the film, when we’re woken up again with an excellent drunken sequence which is right on the money, and will inspire delighted laugher from anyone else who’s been there before. Again, this reviewer is the voice of experience… A little more of this contemporary filming, along with a shorter, sharper, edgier film, could have made a truly memorable flick, instead of a mediocre one with some memorable moments.


    Anamorphically presented in 1.85:1, the video isn’t too bad, for what it is, with just a few glaring faults in places. While the colours are pretty good, the contrast is dodgy. The day shots are over bright and saturated, whereas night shots are over shadowy. The picture is a bit fuzzy and unclear. There is visible edge enhancement in a few places, most particularly on a few close ups of scantily clad females, interestingly enough… which all harks of a lonely male cinematographer lingering pedantically over his shots of choice…

    This French film offers English for the hearing impaired, English, English text, Icelandic, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles. All of the above are not burnt in, which is nice, as it offers the multilingual a chance of getting rid of them altogether. Unfortunately, what's not nice, is that this has led to the lot of them looking rather hideous. They are over bright and hazy, and very hard to read over a light background, which makes some of Xavier’s more long winded whinging feel seriously not worth the effort.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is put to decent use, with plenty sent to the back speakers, and a nice, full sound. The ‘kaboom’ possibilities of the back speakers is unfortunately not taken advantage of as much as it could be; a sequence in the middle is played to a nice bassy techno track, and while the bass does come from the back, it fails to deliver much depth or reverberation. It’s hard to comment much on the dialogue, as the majority is in French, so it all sounds bloody unclear to this un-multilingual reviewer. The soundtrack contains some pearlers, but again, we have a problem with under use. Also, the same Radiohead song is used in three separate sequences. Sure, it’s a kick-arse track, but it would have been nice to see them be good sports and roll out something different. Just another aspect of the film which would have benefited from a little more thought and effort.

    The Spanish Apartment offers an anamorphically enhanced menu, which someone has snazzied up quite decently. Sorry folks, that's all on the extras front.

    The Spanish Apartment needs more of Barcelona’s stunning scenery. More footage of crazy nights out on the town. More interaction and conflict between housemates. More point. Less of Xavier moping about his self induced relationship woes. This film has an interesting premise and the potential to be extremely witty and interesting, as the fodder should give a writer plenty to write about. Unfortunately, this fodder hasn’t been taken advantage of, so what we end up with is a movie almost two hours long, with only 45 minutes that are really worth watching. What this film wants is some hardcore editing and a less self indulgent writer.

    But, nonetheless, that 45 minutes is well worth sitting through a couple of hours for, if you have a spare evening and a smidgeon of patience. There are some very funny moments and witty observations about nationality, bureaucracy, friendship and sexuality. Anyone with an interest in all things foreign, in youthful interaction, in travel, or in the fascinating interplay between the various members of the EU will find it a lively, albeit overlong, journey.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3854
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  •   And I quote...
    "Like being stuck in a broken down car with a bunch of funky, spunky Euro youngsters, it’d be loads of fun if were only going somewhere. "
    - Rachel Schmied
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS530
    • TV:
          Sharp SX76NF8 76cm Widescreen
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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