Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey ★★★★★

Tom DiCillo's Down in Shadowland reminded me of Chantal Akerman's News from Home, which in turn reminded me that I still hadn't seen her hour-long experimental documentary Hotel Monterey, so here I am. A true silent film in a way classic "silents" are not -- there is literally nothing on the soundtrack -- Hotel Monterey challenges the viewer to stay focused on its succession of still, mostly locked-down images. Occasionally the camera will tilt or pan or someone will walk through Akerman's carefully composed frames, but these are the exceptions, not the rule. (There are a handful of shots of people in their rooms, but they sit still as if they're posting for a photograph, which in a way is true. They're just posing for a whole lot of photographs at once.)

Once the camera leaves the hotel lobby and elevator, Akerman's explorations of the building find it mostly devoid of human occupants, which is understandable considering how drab and dingy and poorly lit the Monterey's hallways are. As a result, the simple act of somebody opening their door and peeking out while the camera is rolling can elicit a chuckle, and a sudden dolly move can feel like a seismic shift worthy of a gasp. Akerman also takes to rolling up to open windows and looking out before finally winding up on the roof. Her tour complete, she cuts to black. Nothing more to say.