Director: Mike Figgis
Starring: Salma Hayek, Rhys Ifans, David Schwimmer, Julian Sands
Films directed by Mike Figgis (PAL Video, Region 2 DVD)
The largely successful Timecode saw commanding British director Mike Figgis taking his preoccupation with formal and narrative experimentation to perhaps its most logical conclusion. Utilising a multi-screen format (often projected with live sound mixing by Figgis himself), the film was a playful, humorous and often engrossing mediation on identity, multimedia and duplicity. Figgis' latest feature, Hotel, sees him continuing his explorations of what we traditionally think of as cinema to similarly impressive if slightly diminishing effect.
The principal setting is the opulent, foreboding Hungarian Palace Hotel in Venice which becomes home to a bitchy film crew intent on producing a Dogme-style version of John Webster's revengers' tragedy, 'The Duchess of Malfi'. The crew is led by a gung-ho director, (Rhys Ifans) and his sycophantic producer (David Schwimmer), whose pursuit of integrity and realism is driving the crew to distraction. Shadowing the production is a witless documentary crew, whose reporter-cum-interrogator (Salma Hayek) seems to have patented a new level of antagonism. A dubious Eastern European politician in Venice on shady business and an uptight English tour operator who spends rather too much time in the hotel's darkened basement add to the already incendiary mix. Meanwhile, members of the entourage are disappearing with increasing regularity. Is somebody or something eating the guests?
Hotel is for the most part intelligent viewing, which again uses the possibilities of multi-layered storytelling and diverse visual aesthetics (full frame, scope spit screen, image inserts) to compelling effect; there's no denying Figgis' mastery of the digital medium and the freedom and creativity it accords him. Moreover, his irreverence for conventional modes of narrative are often liberating for both director - as with Timecode Figgis manages to avoid any air of pretension and is instead characteristically playful and witty - viewer alike. The use of sound is again impressive and few contemporary directors can claim to use sound production to such innovative and exhilarating effect. Complementing the film's many textural assets is the typically assured and haunting score, courtesy of Figgis himself and co-composer Anthony Marinelli.
Less winning a formula is the indulgence Figgis allows his ensemble cast. Ifans (in a thankless role) is characteristically boorish and the plethora of star cameos (Hayek, Lucy Liu, an uncredited John Malkovich and Burt Reynolds) collectively dampens the film's ambition and scope. For its niggling faults however, Hotel is rarely less than compulsive, and further evidence of a director to whom risk taking and experimentation has become second nature.
Reviewed by Jason Wood
Reader comments about Hotel
marco (email@example.com) writes:
Watching 'Hotel' in a recent screening at the ICA in London I found myself confronted with two prevailing notions of discomfort and fascination.
The first one could easliy explained by the all to moveable DV camera; by some rare fluke of luck(?) radical on-screen movement keeps me from playing videogames since it induces nausea and sickness; so the same seemed to apply here. But also in the inital first half hour I couldn't befriend myself with the idea of watching a 'film about a film', something I have always disliked and doubt will get accustomed to easliy in the future.
So, once I was settled however, the interesting use of the dv camera, the nightvision functuality employed and the intimacy achieved by it, kept me alert. Also 'hotel's' split and mulitple screen techniques I found very inspiring although this slowly seems to be something coming of age: split screen going mainstream.
One of the most loveable features yet though was the soundscape produced and tracks ultimately complimenting the mood and atmosphere of the film. In particualr 'wicked' was a flamenco dance scene in the middle part: here I could really feel the rythm and beat, enhanced by the visual immediacy of the employed close ups and parallel realities of the split screen. My heart was pounding!
Nevertheless the film leaves me uneasy. Mike Figgis seems to really like 'his' women and portrays them accordingly, maybe lovingly, who knows.
A brave and highly commending venture into uncharted territory of storytelling 'Hotel' leaves you wanting more difficult watching time, something other than mainstream Hollywood consumerism with happy endings and a re-churning of the three act structure of linear narrative.
Way to go, Mike.
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