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Hotel (2 Disc set) (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000040235
Added by: Anil Khedun
Added on: 5/10/2002 01:44
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    Review of Hotel (2 Disc set)

    4 / 10


    CDA Entertainment are better known for extravagant and overpriced boxed DVD collections of Warner Bros. films such as The Matrix, The Perfect Storm and North by Northwest amongst many others. Here it`s picked up the distribution to Hotel, an experimental film by Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas and Timecode), a 2-disc affair with an interesting cover. In fact, this is the only thing which intrigued me to begin with, the promise of "perversion, torture and pain". Then there`s the quote, "Terrifically unhinged...expect vampires, cannibalism and plenty of nutty sex.-The Times." So, what`s it all about?

    A film crew go to Venice to try and make a version of The Duchess of Malfi. Problems come about when the director (Rhys Ifans) is out of action and his producer (David Schwimmer) has to complete his work. They`re filming some of this at the hotel, which houses some very bizarre goings on within including cannibalism!


    Presented with a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, this film is all shot on digital video and it shows. There`s nothing wrong with it if this is what the filmmakers intend to use. This gives Hotel a documentarian quality. The transfer looks good with no sign of any technical faults, it`s just the limit of DV resolution and light exposure that gives it the look it has in a lot of scenes. In the name of arthouse, pretty much anything goes!


    Good use of music throughout with heavy bass coming through the DD5.1 soundtrack. Unfotunately the location sound recorded here makes some of the dialogue difficult to hear and there was no dialogue re-recording. Some of the dialogue seems to be recorded well enough with tiny mics, but there`s a lot of stuff that remains somewhat muffled and distant, particularly in the quieter scenes. Subtitles would have helped quite a bit instead of me having to turn it up.


    Static menus with a dark sounding piece of music in the background gives us Scene Select, Play Movie and CDA. The extras are on disc two where we get Web Shorts, Photo Gallery with a series of stills from the movie and Documentary. The Web Shorts are a combination of short clips behind the scenes of Hotel and the actors playing in character as if we`re watching a documentary on the making of the film they`re making. This is interesting to watch, but it`s a shame there`s no `play all` button. Lastly the 24 minute documentary is very interesting. It`s a shame that it`s as short as it is, but I really found Figgis to be an interesting chap to observe and listen to.

    There are no subtitles on the main feature or extras which is a poor omission. The audio isn`t clear enough in the film itself, so subtitles would have helped.


    Hotel is an interesting experiment but unfortunately it`s a bit hit and miss. Narratively, it resembles a patchwork quilt since there was no script but this seems par the course with quite a few arthouse films. Which means it`s time for improvisation and trying to get the best out of an actor.

    This isn`t conventional cinema and this is the hard bit to actually decipher. There are good elements to it such as the dialogue and the weird surreal feel to the whole thing, but I really wanted to know what happens with these cannibals. Why do these cannibals exist? What`s their purpose? Are they knocking off people in the hotel? It left me wanting. The story, if there was one here, isn`t clear.

    There`s a crew filming "The Duchess of Malfi" on location in Venice, in and around a hotel. Rhys Ifans plays the film director with David Schwimmer as his producer. Saffron Burrows, Mark Strong and Brian Bovell play the other leading parts with Salma Hayek and Lucy Liu as the rival entertainment reporters.

    Things go awry when someone shoots Ifans and Schwimmer has to step into the breach to finish the film. There`s something not quite right about the hotel staff though and you know there`s something strange going on. This is where you encounter difficulties with non-traditional filmic storytelling. There`s subtext within and it can make understanding what unfolds frustrating. You`re not handed anything on a plate and have to work at trying to understand the films intentions. It`s not easy!

    We see John Malkovich in the opening scene and he`s amusing, it keeps you watching just to see why he`s behind bars enjoying meat and conversation with hotel staff. The film then goes downhill from there and really slows down. It`s tediously long at 110 minutes and I got severely bored watching it. There are moments throughout when frustration, boredom then intense interest set in. Then it`ll swing back to something more mundane and you`re off for a quick kip, again. The last 25 minutes or so picks up again with the introduction of Lucy Liu.

    You can clearly see some of the difficulties in the cast not having a script. Some of them were drab and lacked spark, others such as Rhys Ifans, Saffron Burrows and Salma Hayek had what it takes and did well onscreen.

    Like Timecode, Mike Figgis uses a split and quad-split screen to show different timelines and reactions to scenes and actors and this is interesting in itself. A bit hard to follow at times as you really have to concentrate on what`s happening, and for me this was one of the few parts of the film that kept me interested. There`s also use of black and white and nightvision photography to add to the visual storytelling.

    The extras here are surprisingly good for a film that I thought little of. The short but interesting documentary fleshes out more of the original concept while the web shorts make an amusing piece too. This second supplemental disc was far more interesting than the film itself.

    Sadly as a film, I think Hotel just doesn`t work well enough. It`s an experiment and it`s good to see that things like this can still be made, even with a well known raft of faces. It`s just not going to appeal to a lot of people. If you`re a Figgis or arthouse fan you may well want to check this out, perhaps rental would be the preferred option though. Otherwise stay away from this DVD, it`s a bit dull.

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