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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

Mon Idole

The focus of “Mon Idole” is on Bastien (Canet), a lowly technician on “Take Out the Tissues,” one of the top shows on French TV. Bastien also works as the assistant to Phillipe Letzger (Philippe Lefebvre), the bastard child of Oprah Winfrey and Morton Downey Jr. host of “Tissues,” regularly finding himself humiliated by his boss, if only to allow himself access to his idol, the show’s legendary producer Jean-Louis Broustal (Francois Berleand). After work one Friday afternoon, Broustal invites Bastien out to his home in the country to discuss the concept for a new show Bastien recently pitched to Broustal. The pair arrives at the resplendently designed country home, where Bastien is introduced to Clara (Kruger), Broustal’s sexy young wife, who takes hospitality to new levels. Thus, the wheels are set in motion for Bastien’s temptation. Broustal will give the young lad the chance to host the new show, if only Bastien will agree to a unique personal services contract. When Bastien declines to participate, he finds himself not only out of a job but on the run for his life.

If there is anything remotely interesting concerning “Mon Idole,” besides the lovely Ms. Kruger, is the lengths director/co-writer/star Canet allowed his character to be shamed. Very few American stars would ever allow these kinds of moral degradations to be foisted upon them, let alone create them to be done to themselves, so Canet must be applauded for that. However, the bulk of the film is an uninteresting mess. As a satire on the reality television craze, it comes nowhere near the absurdity of most shows on the air, making its condemnation worthless in comparison. As a statement on the lack of morality in the entertainment industry, it pales in comparison to the savage beatings given by the likes of Paddy Chayefsky and Woody Allen. And as a first time director, Canet shows no kind of personal style that helped give neophyte directors like Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson a fan base through their debuts.

I give “Mon Idole” a C for effort and a D for execution.

“Mon Idole” Scorecard
Director: Guillaume Canet
Writers: Guillaume Canet, Philippe Lefebvre
Producer: Alain Attal
Cinematography: Christophe Offenstein
Featuring: Francois Berleand, Guillaume Canet, Diane Kruger, Philippe Lefebvre
MPAA Rating: Not rated by the MPAA
Running Time: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Flat (1.85:1)
Sound Format: Dolby Digital, DTS

Rating: D

Short Cuts: Randal Kleiser Returns to the Movie Musical, and other news

Short Cuts will be a bi-weekly column helping you to catch up on the upcoming motion pictures that are flying under the radar. Today, you’ll learn about the writing and directing debut of a “Usual Suspects” producer, find out what “The Mask of Zorro” villian Matt Letscher does in his sleep, discover how “Grease” director Randal Kleiser plans on modernizing the Little Red Riding Hood tale in song, and wonder what makes serial killers so interesting to Matthew Bright. Just four of ten new projects that will begin production in the coming months.

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