Carlo Sergio Castellitto
Liliana Iaia Forte
Lucia Isabella Ferrari
Ernesto Roberto De Francesco
Pasquale Francesco Paolantoni
With: Matteo Urzia, Alessandra Vanzi, Alfonso Santagata, Victor Cavallo.
Charting the downhill journey that comes with one man’s loss of his job, home , family and self-respect, “Hotel Paura” is a sobering depiction of the precariousness of apparent stability and well-being. While the lack of resources with which its seemingly sharp protagonist fights his descent ultimately stretches tale beyond credibility, pic reps a promising move to features from video and TV for Renato De Maria, and should find exposure in new director showcases.
The downslide starts for happily married executive Carlo Ruggeri (Sergio Castellitto) when he is made redundant following a company merger. Next to go is his home, which he shares with his wife, Liliana (Iaia Forte), and son, Paolo (Matteo Urzia). The rental contract is up, and, with Carlo jobless, the owner refuses to extend it. The family moves to a depressing, council-run housing estate, too ashamed to reveal the full extent of their woes to friends or relatives. But Liliana tires of teetering on the poverty line and takes Paolo south to her family, leaving Carlo in Milan to continue his series of fruitless job interviews.
Carlo checks into a low-rent hotel and spends his days wandering the city, where he is mugged and beaten. Any help he receives from friends is purely momentary; something closer to support comes from a friendly warehouse foreman (Roberto De Francesco), but Carlo’s path to rock bottom is now inexorable. Begging for money on the streets, Carlo hooks up with the homeless Lucia (Isabella Ferrari), who introduces him to Hotel Paura, a semi-subterranean abandoned station that’s a metropolis for vagrants.
De Maria’s rigorous direction admirably sustains the grim atmosphere, but the script fails to justify Carlo’s obstinate pride in turning down the one or two solid work opportunities that come his way; nor is his refusal to seek help from his wife’s family satisfyingly articulated. Carlo’s supposed arrival at a purer plateau of self-discovery is, consequently, less than persuasive.
Still, the drama maintains a certain spell, showing that the self-destructive process is not reserved solely for junkies, alcoholics and madmen. Castellitto provides the story with a strong fulcrum, registering increasing disenchantment, humiliation and defeat before stumbling onto a new set of values. Forte and De Francesco are sympathetic, and Ferrari is convincing as a person utterly spent but still clinging to life.
Gianfilippo Corticelli’s lensing avoids the institutional, antiseptic aspect given Milan in so many recent films about urban alienation, going instead for a harsh, drained look that complements the material. The many long tracking sequences are underscored, a little distractingly at times, by Naples band Avion Travel’s sardonic, animated music.