The play, written by Shakespeare contemporary John Webster, concerns the widow of a Duke who is forbidden to remarry by her brother. In love with a steward, she disregards her orders, not only marrying the steward in secret but getting pregnant. In “Hotel,” a group of Dogme filmmakers have come to Venice, Italy, to shoot their own version of the play, using St. Mark’s Square as their main location. The main rehearsal area and lodging quarters for the group is the Hotel Hungaria, which is operated by a group of employees who, we have learned in a pre-credit opening sequence, are cannibals. From this meager set up, the story unfolds at a slow, lugubrious pace. A television reporter shows up to document the making of the film, following cast and crew around and asking inane questions. One of the lead actors in the Dogme movie bolts after the first day of shooting, having received a much better offer to work with Ridley Scott. An actress is seduced by a female member of the staff and lead down into the basement dungeon. The man paying for the production of the film enjoys watching a prostitute dip her bosom into champagne glasses filled with milk. The financier’s wife has an affair with a potential investor. The director is shot. The producer of the film decides to complete the film himself, also inserting himself into the life of the lead actress, who had been having an affair with the director. A flamenco dancer dances. Burt Reynolds shows up with a strange effeminate Texan from New Orleans accent to check on his director. Another television reporter shows up to cover the making of the film. The two reporters get into a bitchy verbal spar. The first reporter leaves. The film completes production. A hotel chambermaid brings the director out of his coma by screwing him. The newly resurrected director and his cast set up a Last Supper-like dining table in the hotel’s rehearsal hall, saving the last seat for the producer, who instead leads himself into the basement and to his own cannibalistic demise.
Whatever type of movie “Hotel” was supposed to be… comedy or drama, mystery or satire… it fails on almost every level. Even the supposed Dogme filmmakers seem to have forgotten most of the Dogme rules, which I suppose can be forgiven since even the Dogme creators have abandoned their own credo. If anything nice can be said about “Hotel,” it’s that the one good thing that has come out of this production was the creation of a hand-held camera rig which will truly help future digital moviemakers for years to come. But, again, technological advances are not an excuse for technique, and the film that bore this new devise is indeed a bore.
Under the guidance of a new storyteller looking to prove themselves, “Hotel” could have had the chance to be a decent story. It is time for Mr. Figgis to go back to the big boy’s playground, and leave the child’s play to the emerging artists who create their works with a sense of urgency, for they truly have nothing to lose.
“Hotel” gets a D+ for effort and a D for execution.Rating: D