Pot Luck


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

After a spate of braindead American comedies about student life, it is a complete joy to come across one from France that captures the experience of making friends, finding somewhere to live, juggling relationships, discovering different aspects of character and learning how to flat share with five others whose only common language is English.

Filmed as an autobiographical memoir of 25-year-old Xavier (Romain Duris), writer/director Cedric Klapisch uses camera tricks, such as fast motion and split screens, to liven things up. Although self-consciously kooky at the start, with too much emphasis on voice-over narration, it sets a comic tone.

The city of Barcelona and the performance of Duris adds greatly to the pleasure. Avoiding the rebel charmer student hipster stereotype, Xavier is an intelligent, serious, unworldly, shy Frenchman, who goes to Spain to study business management and learn the language so that he can walk into an EU civil service job, set up by one of his father's colleagues.

He stays a year. The relationship with his Parisian girlfriend (Audrey Tautou) becomes strained because of distance and her insecurities. He is attracted to a Belgian girl in his class, who turns out to be gay, and starts an affair with the wife (Judith Godreche) of a neurosurgeon, who is repressed and dominated by her self-satisfied husband.

It is not so much a film about student excesses and sexual misdemeanours as a kaleidoscopic appraisal of a young person's introduction to the spirit of European unity. If that sounds desperately worthy, the opposite is true. Xavier shares a flat with a Dane, an Italian, a German, an English girl and a Spanish girl.

Their adventures and scrapes and close encounters of the emotional kind are wittily chronicled in Xavier's short history of his life so far. Klapisch avoids sentimentality and comic business that does not evolve naturally from the way things are.

Pot Luck, an idiotic translation of L'auberge Espagnole, once titled Euro Pudding, is the least phoney student film imaginable and one of the most honest.

"Love is a bitch," Xavier says. "It's so hard."

Friends help.

Reviewed on: 08 May 2003
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Observant, shy Frenchman becomes a student in Barcelona for a year.
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Director: Cedric Klapisch

Writer: Cedric Klapisch

Starring: Romain Duris, Judith Godreche, Audrey Tautou, Cecile de France, Kelly Reilly, Kevin Bishop, Federico D'Anna, Barnaby Metschurat

Year: 2002

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France/Spain


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