Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey ★★★★

"When you read a text, you're on your own time. That is not the case in film. In fact, in film, you're dominated by my time. But time is different for everyone. Five minutes isn't the same thing for you as it is for me." Though Chantal Akerman said this in 2004, I think it stands as an ideal statement of purpose for her early '70s work. Shot primarily in a single night over the course of fifteen hours, Akerman's Hotel Monterey is a dark, temporal rumination that ushers the viewer "somewhere beyond the merely informative." Much like her first New York film La Chambre, there is no sound or text presented, though in this case the footage has even less of a narrative overlay (lacking Akerman's allegorical poses). Here the subject is the titular hotel and to a lesser extent its sundry occupants. Many of the static shots are held for such length that they assume something of a mesmeric quality—I recall asking my girlfriend if she was as entranced as I was by the grain of the film stock dancing on the dingy walls.

Even after scouring for interviews, I can't say with any confidence what compelled Akerman to specifically shoot this gloomy hotel in her austere manner, but it evinced in me an acute feeling of melancholy to simply see it without any pretext but its own right to be recognized in the fullness of that moment. These people are likely all dead, and the hotel itself has long since become a homogenized corporate structure (now owned by Days Inn), but the film remains a palimpsest to a mythical New York that could draw an artist halfway across the world just to feel its pulse. "In New York, I felt relieved of the weight of not belonging. And at the same time, I felt that I didn't belong. But that was part of the pleasure."

In my New York movies ranked list.

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