Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey ★★★½

It seems we humans, when faced with the abstract, tend to go into an involuntary, frenzied mental rolodex search to ascribe some sort of meaning to the nonsensical, to find kinship with the foreign, structure in the elusive. As Chantal Akerman’s grainy celluloid rolled on a now-unrecognizable Hotel Monterey, in an equally altered 1972 New York City, I was plunged into the icy unknown of ambiguity, and as a survival instinct began labeling each oblique scene as they correlated to my own unremarkable experiences; some from life, some literary, others more cinematic.  

The lobby transported me to the residential Hotel Gloriana in Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day. Chantal in her robin-egg blue boudoir mentally conjured its sister chamber, a bedroom in my late grandparent’s house that was painted the same hue by my colorblind grandfather. The doorway-framed bathroom mirror and sink was the same view I studied from the foot of my bed in a Kansas City hotel room two years ago. The slithering voyage down abandoned, barely lit hallways predicted the suspense and doom evoked in The Shining. The perspective of fixed shots of the diverging passageways recalled standing with my partner in front of ‘The Subway’ (1950) by George Tooker at The Whitney.

But despite the intimacy of all these connections, there was always a prevailing feeling of incarceration, claustrophobia, of being shut in—in the hotel’s lobby, the elevator, its rooms or dim corridors, until a transcendent moment of freedom atop the abandoned roof—the panoramic survey of New York from the vantage point of the gods; and the previous suffocation abated, revealing my unrelenting sentimentality under the blue expanse of liberating possibility.

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