Flick(s) of the Week: Holy Motors and 28 Hotel Rooms

Holy Motors Featuring as many wondrous moments as WTF? scenes, Holy Motors is a strange and inventive surrealistic dream, full of cinematic references and tricks. Surprises that delight and inspire as well as astound or confound confront viewers as a wild narrative unfolds involving a man (Denis Levant, in the performance of the year) in a white limousine goes to work on a single day.

It’s unfair to reveal too much about this unusual film, except to say that it is a series of interconnected episodes, with each chapter possibly better than the one before it. There is a dazzling sequence involving motion capture, a bizarre underworld story, an enchanting romance, a beautiful song (sung by co-star Kylie Minogue) and arguably best of all, an utterly fantastic Entr’acte featuring accordion players. Holy Motors defies logic and description, but for these reasons alone, it is one of the year’s best films. Don’t miss it.

28 Hotel Rooms Two nameless strangers (Chris Messina and Marin Ireland) meet in–yes, 28 hotel rooms–over the course of this compelling, emotion-filled drama. He’s a writer and she’s a businesswoman, and they are having a passionate, adulterous affair. As their lives unfold over the days, weeks, and months and years, they each reveal things that they might only be able to share with one another. Their naked honesty is matched by their sexual intimacy, and it is riveting not claustrophobic.

Viewers have to fill in the blanks between episodes, or even within them, as the lovers’ relationship takes its course. There are scenes of comedy and drama, anger and happiness, pain and pleasure within the crucible of each hotel room and this keeps the drama lively. Some of the best moments are the introspective, heartbreaking ones–as when she considers his dream of living together and owning a chicken coop, or when she runs a bath and holds her hand under the steaming hot water. Messina gets most of the big dramatic moments, which require him to act out in anger, but he is also considerably charming, as when he gives what she calls “his blowjob chronicles.” 28 Hotel Rooms is a slick film–as good looking as its leads, who look good sans clothes. And the final scene does pack a nice little wallop.

At Cinema 16:9 in Lansdowne. See also my interview 28 Questions with Chris Messina about 28 Hotel Rooms.

Opening Wednesday

Anna Karenina Director Joe Wright’s risky re-imagining of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel unfolds mostly on a stage, as adiorama. This bold stylistic choice will be either spellbinding or silly depending on viewers’ taste. Yet, this Anna Karenina feels less like Tolstoy and more like Moulin Rouge. One fears the characters might break out into song at any moment. Anna (Keira Knightley, trying too hard) is married to Karenin (a dull Jude Law). She becomes smitten by–and begins an affair with–Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and becomes a social pariah. There is a parallel relationship between Kitty (Alicia Vikander) and Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) that justifies all the talk in Tom Stoppard’s script about honor and shame, love, jealousy and forgiveness.

Perhaps it is the distance device of theatricality, but there is no passion on screen here, just sumptuous costumes–a ball scene is a riot of color–and lavish sets. The film has a few dazzling scenes, such as an imaginatively filmed horserace, and a sequence at the opera where Anna is shunned. But too much of the film lacks emotion. What is more, the central lovers have very little chemistry together; it is hard to care about what happens to them. Wright repeatedly foreshadows the tragic ending, which, when it comes, hardly feels tragic. This film may look fantastic, but it is all artifice; the only “real” moment comes early on, when Kitty rejects Levin’s proposal.

Rise of the Guardians A 3-D animated film about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy who must fight against villain named Pitch Black (Jude Law) who wants to ruin the holidays.

Red Dawn This remake of the 1984 Patrick Swayze film–about Americans seeing red and defending his town after being attacked by Soviets–now stars Chris Hemsworth seeing red and defending his town after being attacked by North Koreans.

Life of Pi Ang Lee directs this adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestseller about the title character (Suraj Sharma) who is stuck on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.

Related Posts:

Gary Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based film critic who thinks Sandra Bullock mambos. He likes eating ethnic food and watching ethnic movies—though not necessarily both at the same time or from the same country.

Did you love this post? Share it with your friends.
This entry was posted in Entertainment and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.