Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey

Despite coming six years after Hotel Monterey, I was reminded while watching of Georges Perec's 1978 novel(s) Life: A User's Manual, which freezes time for a Parisian apartment block and hops from room to room, according to an unseen schema based on the 'knight's tour' chess game, expanding them either spatially (listing everything contained within) or temporally (narrating the histoires of the room or its occupants). That frozen block, one June evening in 1975—where perhaps Jeanne Dielmann is playing at la salle de cinéma somewhere down the Rue—is less about finding a microcosm for society, as you might expect, and more about the moment, the now, the stories and most importantly the space itself.

Chantal Akerman and Babette Mangolte's Hotel Monterey does much the same thing, leaping from room to hall to elevator, breathing in the space for what it contains, where it is, how it relates to what came before and follows, without necessarily being a logical, linear progression. Significantly, time here is not frozen, enabling both a sense of stillness and the indefatigable march of time, as we stare ceaselessly at a hotel door, or the movement of the elevator, or our movement down a hallway towards the outside, presented so small and inaccessible compared to space we are in (till we reach the roof of course).

Also significant are the people. Unfrozen unlike the Perec, they shift and shuffle, either ignoring the camera or unhappy to be in the gaze. The synopses for Hotel Monterey widely describe the hotel as cheap, for outsiders. Little of that perspective is challenged or even addressed. They are once again outsiders here, sans agency or even much representation, marginalised by Mangolte's camera and Akerman's gut intentions for the film. Is that perpetuation? Or truly empathetic?

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