Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hôtel Monterey

(1972, Belg/USA, 65m)
d Chantal Akerman ph Babette Mangolte

In a silent series of long, slow and defiantly “uninteresting” shots, Akerman films the drab corners and empty corridors of a low-rent New York hotel. With strikingly abstract geometric compositions, the painterly eye of DP Babette Mangolte (channeling Vermeer and Hopper in particular) and the robust grain of the 16mm film itself, she builds a patient structuralist portrait of things which would normally be ignored. Thereby, à la Alphaville, the quotidian becomes unsettlingly unfamiliar: it’s almost a sci-fi movie, an anti-2001, complete with waxwork-still hotel room, and long slow tracks through pools of corridor lighting that play like a doped-out star-gate (and it wouldn’t be Akerman without a sexual dimension: she makes creamy thighs of white-painted walls either side of a dark, intriguing doorway). When the camera finally ventures outside, smokestacks take off like rocket-ships, but the exterior world is literally barred; only in the final, slow pan do we see that life goes on, far below and far away. Hotel living is a lonely business.

© Time Out Film Guide

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