In spite of some striking images and a cast of memorably wacky characters, “Motel” is a quirky, too-arty-for-its-own-good pic that never fully comes to life. Opened Dec. 1 in Quebec, it is only likely to appeal to adventurous aficionados of hip, underground cinema.
This curious mix of “Psycho”-style spookiness and experimental weirdness makes for a highly original feature debut from Montreal helmer Pascal Maeder, but the stylistic flourishes and interesting ideas come in a package that will tax most viewers’ patience.
Black-and-white pic kicks off with Urania (Anna Papadakos), decked out in dark shades and faded leather jacket, wandering through some of the seedier streets of downtown Montreal. She eventually meets the mysterious, laconic Mat (Montreal musician Jerry Snell) in a local tavern. They almost immediately hit the road together, and, after much pretentious dialogue, their old car breaks down right on the doorstep of an out-of-the-way motel. Script by Maeder, Papadakos and William Eastwood, which drags big-time in first section, picks up once they begin bumping into the various unhinged tenants at the mysterious establishment, including the oddball motel keeper, a delirious character who spends nights moon-bathing on the pool diving-board and a guitar-strumming moper named Johnny.
One of the problems with “Motel” is that Maeder fails to play up the comic potential of these nutty characters, leaving the proceedings almost solemnly serious throughout. Perfs are no better than average. One of the highlights is the moody monochrome lensing of Guy Kinkead.