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And finally, out of all of the films I've seen so far this year, this is probably the one I enjoyed most. l'Auberge Espagnole (or to French illiterates like myself, The Spanish Apartment) begins with youngish French economics student Xavier leaving his girlfriend in France, embarking upon a one-year Erasmus echange to Barcelona in order to pick up Spanish for the sake of his career. Staying at first with a French couple he meets just off the plane (actually, it's second...he's deserted by his mother's friend due to an unexpected problem), Xavier soon finds joins six others - mostly internationals - in an apartment, a move which proves to be the defining moment of his time away...

l'Auberge Espagnole is perhaps best described as a series of clips about student life. The proportion of scenes in class probably reflects the attendence record of the average student, especially after one finds out that the lecturer is going to use a language one knows nothing of (Catalan rather than Spanish - all Spanish speakers I've had the privilege of meeting say that they're quite distinct, something like how the Chinese dialects differ I'd expect). Though...there are occasions that some occupants of the apartment try to get some work done...

Anyway, this group of flatmates, almost stereotypes of the cultures they represent (even though there is a point where, to the disgust and anger of several members, an 'outsider' attempts to apply stereotypes to them, a couple of typical characteristics come through), is probably as unlikely as one would ever find anywhere, and Europe would be the only place where I'd expect it to be possible, if at all. From the blunt and straightforward German Tobias, to the Danish Lars forever lounging in front of the tv; from an easily offended Spanish Soledad to the neat-freak, conservative English Wendy...their occasionally petty but ultimately entertaining interactions are what give this film its brilliance. Typical flatting experiences are bound to bring memories back to those who've had similar experience: the squabbles over fridge space; the perils of taking calls for one another through the language barriers, and of using the phone in a very public, sharing environment; the non-functional division of household chores; the inevitable mess that results in the introduction of the Belgium Isabelle to the mix when the rent is raised... Those who haven't flatted may well find themselves wishing for the experience, even if they know it would drive them insane! And perhaps most surprising of all, it is the conservative Wendy who brings the greatest tribulations to the group, when her brother visits, and again when her boyfriend unexpectedly lands in Barcelona for a surprise visit (and results in increasing respect for a highly irritating prick, 'scuse the language)...

Much better than any American college/coming-of-age movie that comes to my mind, this film about student life in Barcelona, a city known for late-night partying was thoroughly enjoyed by yours truly, even if some of the situations characters found themselves in were rather uncomfortable and some of their decisions went against my values. But it is also those situations and decisions that bring forth some of the most important recommendations that the film has to make about life. As the distance between Xavier and his girlfriend widens, the former is taught the proper way to treat a woman, by a lesbian, no less (makes one wish every guy who needs it has a lesbian friend to enlighten him), which he then uses on the lonely wife of the French couple whom he should have been grateful towards. Although it effectively breaks their ties with Xavier, this illicit liason forces her husband to recognise her isolation (lesson two for all you men out there!). The students' relationships, on the other hand, continue or end just as one expects of people their age...it's all part of enjoying life, what it means to truly live (even though I don't personally agree with the extent to which they take it).

And for laughs, check out the international titles. The Canadian one, Pot Luck, is a pretty good description, and also, IMHO, is the best translation of the French title (according to the trivia on imdb) but my favourite has to be the International English title, Euro Pudding, which is just too cheesy ^^. The quotes are also good, but linking to any would spoil the fun. Take a lesson in 'Life'. Go watch it.

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Just one review left...can I get it done tonight?

edit: make that two...

Firstly, the figure skating at Turin's Winter Olympic Games ended yesterday, and whilst it's resulted in dismay for some, for others it was a worthy celebration.

Last weekend, I finally managed to catch some of the ice-skating. From what I can gather, the first few days of competition were probably broadcast sometime during the day (or I've just been really unlucky in somehow missing it at night - that's what happens when one doesn't buy tv guides >_> ). On Sunday, I saw some of the men's free-skate. I really wish I'd caught the pairs program, but I was happy enough to witness Evgeny Plushenko skating to a gold that was his for the taking. He was brilliant, landing every jump (most of which I cannot personally distinguish), performing to a piece of music from The Godfather (*wants that music*) - it was beautiful... *cliche alert* He really is in a class of his own, but whilst it wasn't really a competition because of this, his program was an absolute pleasure to watch. I have no idea whether he'll be back in Vancouver (haven't read any reports whatsoever)...the regulations about who can participate are rather confusing now - I can only dream about what we'd see if all skaters were allowed to participate! edit: he said he'll be back!!! I didn't see most of the others, though I remember silver medalist Stefane Lambiel for his magical spinning.

I caught some of the ice-dancing too...which was unfortunately memorable more for its falls than for its winning performances. Some of those lifts are so precarious - it's no surprise no one tried to replicate those particular ones in yesterday's gala exibition.

The ladies' competition was a lot closer, with Arakawa Shizuka producing a personal best performance (in the free program) to snatch the gold from Sacha Cohen and Irina Slutskaya. But even more inspiring than her near-perfect, graceful performance are the trials she had to overcome to arrive at what is still regarded as the pinnicle of the sport. Will she retire on this high?

The gala exhibition was a lot more relaxed and showcased some very creative pieces. Plushenko was brilliant again (there's yet another piece of music I want), completing a three-jump sequence (complete with triple jumps) not just once but twice, and I really can't believe how artistic Lambiel's spins are - it isn't just the speed he manages, he really knows how to position his arms and free leg for maximum effect.

Just before I end, here's the wiki article, which explains what most of the different jumps, spins and other elements are. Also, is it actually possible to find a recording of any of these performances?

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Because of something extra I've found, I'm moving the Alchemist review to a new post.