Monday, October 18, 2010

L'Auberge espagnole

While I was in the throes of sickness this weekend, I watched the end of L'Auberge espagnole. It is the only DVD I brought to France with me, and it has been sitting in my computer since I watched the first half on one of my planes over here on September 22nd. I watched it from underneath a haze of distraction on my flight from Charlotte, NC to Charles de Gaulle, because of course I had the aftermath of a very lovely fairytale encounter in North Carolina to occupy me. Vagueness and ongoing innuendo about said encounter, etc. The internet may never know what happened there haha.

In any case, I think it was very fitting for L'Auberge espagnole to be the only movie I brought with me on this trip. I've loved it since I first saw it back around 2004, when it came out in the U.S. It has consistently remained one of the things I will list when people ask me what my favorite movie is, and if you know me lately, that's saying something, because these days I can go on for hours (ok, minutes) about the virtues of choosing novelty and dynamism over static favorites.

The movie is about a group of European college students and, namely, one named Xavier from Paris. He chooses to study abroad in Spain for his Erasmus year, which is a Europe-wide study abroad program that everyone seems to participate in. I have always been one to deeply appreciate a story well told, without any truly coherent way of explaining why I think it is good art. And, true to form, I can't really express the exact reason I think this movie is so good. Maybe because it combines my favorite things in such a tidy yet open-ended plot — language, multiculturalism, youth, friendship, humor... And with a good soundtrack, a happy ending, and fine acting to boot. How can it get better than that?

My good friend Linden has a favorite quote from this movie, and I didn't truly appreciate the truth in the quote until I watched L'Auberge espagnole as an expatriate, as it were. Because with all the logic around me screaming at me to get the most out of this experience — food, wine, tourist attractions, the Parisian lifestyle — I find myself wanting only to live my life. That's all I ever want when I live somewhere amazing; that's how it was in New York, and that's how it was in California when I returned for the summer. I hope this continues to be true for wherever I live in the future. I enjoy life, and I choose the places I live somewhat arbitrarily, but at least my choices have been good, because somehow I have lived places that are most conducive to augmenting my life experience. There are really no adequate words to describe exactly how this has happened. So I'll leave you with a quote and my attempt to translate it (all translating is mere attempt — we can discuss this some other time).

Quand on arrive dans une ville, on voit des rues en perspective. Des suites de bâtiments vides de sens. Tout est inconnu, vierge. Voilà, plus tard on aura marché dans ces rues, on aura été au bout des perspectives, on aura connu ces bâtiments, on aura vécu des histoires avec des gens. Quand on aura vécu dans cette ville, cette rue on l'aura prise dix, vingt, mille fois. Au bout d'un temps cela vous appartient parce qu'on y a vécu.

When you arrive in a city, you see the streets from a certain perspective. Endless buildings devoid of meaning. Everything is unknown, untouched. But then, later, you will have walked those streets, you will have been at the other end of that perspective, you will have come to know those buildings, you will have made stories with people. When you have lived in that city, you will have taken that street ten, twenty, a thousand times. After a while, it belongs to you because you have lived there.

Another good quote from the movie that I feel applies to me in so many ways, is:

Tout a commencé là, quand mon avion a décollé.

It all started there, when my plane took off.


  1. Hey Alex!

    As always, glad to hear that you are doing well (despite your sickness)!

    Thanks for the translation of the movie quotes, it sounds like something I will pursue (most likely at Avery Fischer haha)!

    Keep eating baguettes and pain au chocolates!!!!

  2. I did not realize how much this movie meant to you, but I'm glad that I got to share your first viewing of the movie with you! Of course I do not speak or read French, but why do words sound or look so much better in spoken or written French?!?! Thank you for the English translation in spite of your feelings about your translation. Love, Mom

  3. Well I learned today that I shouldn't read your blog during stats class or I risk turning into an envious mess, sickness and all, haha. Glad to hear you are where you think you should be ;-)

  4. Haha well, take a look at what I just posted; hopefully that makes up for any misplaced envy :P