Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hotel Chevalier

Written and directed by Wes Anderson, Hotel Chevalier is a thirteen-minute short film that serves as a prologue to his upcoming fifth feature-length film The Darjeeling Limited that he co-wrote with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman. Starring Schwartzman and Natalie Portman, the short revolves around a man named Jack Whitman (Jason Schwartzman) who waits in a hotel room in Paris for his girlfriend (Natalie Portman).

The short film revolves around Jack waiting in his Paris hotel room as he orders food and then gets a call from his girlfriend. The call surprises Jack as she is at the hotel wanting to know his hotel room. After cleaning up and wearing his suit, she arrives while the Peter Sarstedt song Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) plays on his iPod stereo. Annoyed at the song, she asks him how long he’s been staying at the hotel which he revealed was for more than a month. When the food arrives, the couple start to undress as they have sex as their conversation reveals that this would be the last time they would be together.

While the short served as a prologue to Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited about Jack Wilson and his two older brothers taking on a spiritual journey to India following the death of their father. In that film, details concerning Jack’s failed relationship with the young woman in the short are unveiled that leads to his own inner turmoil due to his relationship with women while writing a story about its failures. It’s the material that’s in the short that serves as a character device for Jack in his role in The Darjeeling Limited yet the short film that precedes is truly one of Anderson’s most interesting tales.

While there’s minimal dialogue, the way Anderson presents the film with his unique compositions, thanks in large part to Robert Yeomen’s low-key yet colorful cinematography and Kris Moran’s set decorations filled with little figurines, memorabilia, and the luggage (designed by Eric Anderson) that would play a part in The Darjeeling Limited. Shot on widescreen, the film has all of the unique elements fans of Anderson would know. His tracking shots where Jack’s girlfriend would look into his things as well as her movements during her look at the hotel room. Edited by Vincent Marchand and sound by Stuart Wilson, the film has a unique feel in its pacing and atmosphere due to Anderson’s direction.

While the story is about the final moments of a relationship that has already failed, the dialogue that is heard reveals possible keys into how it failed while Anderson also decides to experiment with a genre new to him, eroticism. There’s a nude/sex scene of sorts shown in the film but unlike most erotic films, it’s done with wonderful emotion and subtlety as Anderson also adds a sense of angst into the brief scenes. Overall, Anderson’s direction and his unique approach to storytelling make this film work. Even by using Peter Sarstedt’s Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) as an emotional tool to convey the sadness in Jack’s character as he realizes the final moments of this relationship.

Jason Schwartzman’s performance is definitely miles way from his breakthrough role as Max Fischer in Anderson’s 1998 film Rushmore. Playing this nonchalant man who is not really happy to see his girlfriend. He couldn’t help but love her at the same time as he’s a man confused by his own emotions. Schwartzman brings that mix of sadness to his character that is a bit like Max Fischer while sporting a Beatles-like mustache. Though known for his comedic talents, Schwartzman as an actor remains very underrated, even as he was overlooked in a great performance in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.

The short’s real surprise is Natalie Portman in a role with no name but definitely playing against type in comparison to her more cutesy, innocent film roles like Marty in Ted Demme’s Beautiful Girls, Sam in Zach Braff’s Garden State, or even the Star Wars prequels by George Lucas as Padme Amidala. The role she plays is a bit more like her character of Alice in Closer by Mike Nichols yet with more aggression and attitude. She has a toothpick in her mouth, has a very androgynous look with short hair and almost acts like a man at times. There’s not much humor in her character nor does she smile very much. In fact, Portman proves to play a character that’s very mean, very engaging, and also very shady. It’s truly an amazing performance from Natalie Portman who also finally goes nude for the short where she only shows her... butt. If there was one thing I can say about that with one word...


While Hotel Chevalier is no doubt, one of Wes Anderson’s best work and an improvement over his previous film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (though I did actually liked that film). The film definitely sets up what is to come for The Darjeeling Limited and definitely will serve as a character device for the film. Fans of Wes Anderson will no doubt enjoy this while those interested in his upcoming film should watch this for any possible details so they won’t be confused in her brief appearances in The Darjeeling Limited. So in the end, Hotel Chevalier is a wonderful little short from the always talented Wes Anderson.

© thevoid99 2010


Ray Virzi said...

Hi. I'm a Wes Anderson fan. Being also an ocean lover and lifelong Cousteau fan, I really GOT Life Aquatic. Anyway, didn't know he had another film coming so thanks for the info and the very thorough commentary!

Ray Virzi said...

I just realized the post I linked to was from 2007, which is even better because now I can probably catch the Chevalier short somewhere on the internet! LOL at myself.