Thursday, April 22, 2010

On The Pink Hotel

The Pink Hotel (Chris Hefner, 2010)

Calling a black-and-white movie The Pink Hotel seems perverse, until you remember that under bright studio lighting, pink often made a better white than the real thing. The famous drab white walls of The Passion of Joan of Arc were in fact all pink, and making them white would have made their texture invisible (a similar practice was the use of black to play red, because on black-and-white stock, the real thing didn't have the necessary intensity).

Though most points of comparison for the film seem to involve Guy Maddin (and this is only reinforced by the fact that director Chris Hefner will be working on Maddin's next film), The Pink Hotel actually makes no attempt to mimic or even lampoon the aesthetics of a past cinema, with the exception of the cast's Mid-Atlantic accents. And though its images were shot on grainy Super 8, the film's complex soundtrack is digitally crisp. The movie it most closely resembles -- in terms of pacing, framing, editing, sound design and structure -- is Inland Empire. It dreams a handful of incomplete stories, possibly occurring at different times: a pissed-off concierge who decides to destroy the Pink Hotel and spends the rest of the movie hiding bombs (the explosion never occurs, but we have no reason to believe that it won't), a bored little girl playing around the hallways, an inexplicably wounded man alone in his room and the cast and crew of a laughable melodrama who are shooting scenes in one of the suites.

Ray Pride, in his review for Newcity, was pretty right on about calling the setting a cut-rate version of the hotel from Last Year at Marienbad. The Pink Hotel is opulent only in description: all we see are dingy hallways, ugly suites, empty basements and boiler rooms. What makes the movie function as a critique of luxury is that there's no real luxury in it. Even the most decadent characters look incredibly tense, and half of their actions seem as it first like preparations for suicide. A movie about the guilt of the privileged with no privilege in it.

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