Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey ★★★★

I’ve never been a huge art person, though I can appreciate the occasional mural and abstract landscapes more often than not I quickly become bored with the piece and move on to something else in the hopes of keeping my hyperactive brain happy, with one notable exception.

A few months ago I stumbled across this youtube video by the nerdwriter on the subject of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. It’s a fairly famous painting and odds are you’ve seen it before, it's a simple scene of four people in a diner named Phillies with no exit in the middle of the night. Immediately I was struck with this sense of nostalgia for a place and time I had never experienced. Since then I have developed an affinity for Hooper's work and similar artists such as John Register who specialize in capturing scenes plainly and simply.

I think what I love most about these paintings and about the two Akerman films I’ve seen so far is just how real they feel. And yes I am aware that Hotel Monterey and News From Home are documentaries, but most documentaries are active, weaving a story that really happened with the help of interviews, visual aids, and editing. With those paintings and these films, we are forced to sit and experience the art before us. I always end up imagining myself in the setting, the sensual aspects that can be so clearly conveyed with so little information. Akerman barely moves the camera and uses editing out of necessity rather than want.

For a film that's only 65 minutes, it feels much longer than it is. When the credits finally roll we feel the age of the hotel. The hallways with their peeling paint and chipped floors. The bare lights that fail to properly illuminate their spaces. The elevator, barely large enough for three people that has been moving bodies up and down for decades. The occupants who reside there because they have no choice in the matter. Akerman makes all the details come alive by forcing us to sit, and wait, and notice every little detail before moving on to something new.

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