The notion of a chaotic yet mutually supportive European community is amusingly microcosmed in a student apartment that's shared by a culturally diverse group in Barcelona in "Euro Pudding" -- a living experience that frees the protagonist to pursue his creative instincts and escape a stifling future in Eurocrat hell.
The notion of a chaotic yet mutually supportive European community is amusingly microcosmed in a student apartment that’s shared by a culturally diverse group in Barcelona in “Euro Pudding” — a living experience that frees the protagonist to pursue his creative instincts and escape a stifling future in Eurocrat hell. Writer-director Cedric Klapisch again uses a story loosely developed out of an assortment of characters in a specific environment, which worked for him in his 1996 breakout hit “When the Cat’s Away.” There was an intimate affection shown for Paris’ Bastille area in that earlier film, while the Catalan city inspires a more touristy feel; still, the low-key comedy is sufficiently engaging to score modest international exposure. Fox Searchlight is negotiating a deal in Cannes for U.S. and key non-European rights.The film’s opening literally zips through the exposition — often in fast-motion and split screen. Xavier (Romain Duris), an economics student in his late 20s, is promised a job by a Finance Ministry associate of his father’s if he can master Spanish and get a working knowledge of the country’s economy. Signing up for a European exchange program — a process cleverly summarized in a witty scene that makes fun of French bureaucracy — he sadly says farewell to his girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou), promising to keep investing in the relationship despite the distance. In Barcelona, he moves in with a bunch of fellow students hailing from England, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Belgium and Andalusia. As they hang out, study and party, the housemates absorb each other’s influences, forming a noisy, quarrelsome but nurturing surrogate family. This proves stimulating for Xavier but fails to impress uptight Martine, whose visit places a strain on their relationship. Xavier is further confused by his attraction to a lonely married French woman (Judith Godreche), employing technique acquired from his Belgian lesbian housemate (Cecile Defrance) to seduce her. At the end of his study year, Xavier returns to Paris and the Ministry position and discovers that his priorities have changed. Using an affable but tactless Brit visitor (Kevin Bishop) to take digs at cultural stereotypes within the household, the script sparkles more when dealing with the student crew than in the romantic sidelines. This goes also for the work of the cast. Godreche is saddled with a rather uninteresting character and Tautou goes to the opposite extreme of her “Amelie” role, playing borderline unsympathetic. Consequently, Duris seems rather pallid when paired with Xavier’s girlfriends. But the actor generates more relaxed appeal in scenes with his housemates, all of them switching easily between French, English and a smattering of Spanish. Capturing its colorful locations in crisp summery light, the film is overlong for what it is and could benefit from minor tightening. While it fails to match the playful charm of his writing and direction on “Cat’s Away” or the precision-timed comedy of stage adaptation “Un Air de Famille” — Klapisch’s most widely traveled and arguably best features to date — the new film remains breezy and entertaining. Pic is being sold in Cannes under its original title, “L’Auberge Espagnole,” while print screening in the market carries clumsy English moniker “Euro Pudding.”