Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey ★★★★★

Among my many ventures into experimental cinema I've come across Chantal Akerman, an LGBT female filmmaker that is truly turning out to be one of my favorites. My favorite of her films so far, "Hotel Monterey", is the perfect case study for her cinema.

Like Stan Brakhage, Akerman relies less on traditional storytelling and more on visual experiences themselves. "Hotel Monterey" is a silent pseudo-documentary that acts as its own sort of art gallery. Unlike Brakhage's method of literally painting on film, Akerman paints with film. By recording several scenes within and outside of a cheap hotel in NYC with a grainy, rich film stock that dances in the typically low and moody lighting, she creates what I can only call moving paintings. "Hotel Monterey" requires a great deal of patience to enjoy, as we are accustomed to film being a medium for quick editing, recording movement and sound. This film is not like that. Each shot, which usually takes up at least a minute of the hour-long runtime, gives us time to appreciate the beauty in the cheap ugliness of the hotel, it allows us (or forces us, perhaps) to engage in every detail of the frame, feeling the space, appreciating the gorgeous qualities of so-called mundane things.
Another aspect of Akerman's style is the acknowledgement of the camera-- in other words, breaking the fourth wall. Occupants of the hotel, normal, everyday people just getting around the lobby look at the camera-- at us. The film is the closest thing you can get to a window into another place at another time, where the interaction between you, the director, and the subject, are all intertwined intimately at all times.