Went to see “The Spanish Apartment” last night in Brooklyn with Paul and some of his frisbee friends – my god, it was like somebody had made a movie of my life. It captured the working/studying/travelling abroad experience really well – the excitement of the mix of nationalities, where you swap between languages but there’s always someone who speaks your own, and people are from all over but are all young, educated and middle class – so it’s exotic and familiar all at once; the “alien, virgin” city becoming just as (or more) familiar than home once you’ve crossed the same street “10, 50, 10,000 times”; the painful tribulations of finding your way around which become amusing adventures in retrospect; the romantic liasions – the opportunism, infatuations, bitter jealousies, tradeoffs and regrets at lost opportunities; the realisation that national stereotypes are actually mostly well-founded (apart from in your case – you’re a citizen of the world); the desolation of going home, like waking up from a warm crazy dream to the cold blankness of reality where nothing’s changed and no one understands.
The setting in Barcelona was just right, too – universal but distinctive. It brought it all back for me – la Rambla, Parc Güel, la Sagrada Familia, Placa Real, the waterfront, the bars, la Barria Gótica, the palms, the sun, broad avenues and tight alleyways, the dirt and rubbish, the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the details were just perfect – the gormless yet know-it-all American from Santa Fe who goes on about “this crazy experience at the Taj Mahal” and plays “No Woman No Cry” on his guitar (on the island in the middle of La Rambla, the main street of Barcelona, between the jewellery stalls and the people creating sci-fi space scenes from spray paint, there is an average of about two guys on every block with acoustic guitars singing “No Woman No Cry”).
The plot was a bit by-numbers – the mandatory madcap dramatic irony set piece, “everyone ending up in the same place with different ideas about what the hell’s going on” – was contrived, but I still laughed till my sides hurt.
The end wasn’t realistic either – Xavier runs away from the terrifying prospect of his job as a faceless bureaucrat, “to write”. That’s not how it goes – or at least it’s more complicated than that (you’ve got to cop at least three years as a faceless bureaucrat first). But hell, it was a lightweight film. And maybe that *is * how things work in France…