Bearing traces of inspiration from such no-frills B&W comedies as "Stranger Than Paradise" and "In the Soup," and from writers William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski, "Hotel Room" weaves together five tragicomic stories about the strange quirks of fate that unravel in the lives of people who occupy the same seedy New York City hotel room.

Bearing traces of inspiration from such no-frills B&W comedies as “Stranger Than Paradise” and “In the Soup,” and from writers William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski, “Hotel Room” weaves together five tragicomic stories about the strange quirks of fate that unravel in the lives of people who occupy the same seedy New York City hotel room. Spanish writer-director Cesc Gay and Argentine co-director Daniel Gimelberg cook up one or two agreeably tart episodes in this uneven pic, but ultimately, it plays like “Four Rooms” without a budget, and its commercial prospects look accordingly slim.

The best and most eccentric of the tales concerns a traveling magician (Xavier Domingo) who gets down to the nitty-gritty with a brassy hooker (Heidi Wolfe) before discovering she is his long-lost daughter.

Also amusing are two quarrelsome newlyweds (Barbara Boudon, Eric Kraus) who clash over gambling losses, resulting in the accidental death of the bride — impaled on a souvenir Empire State Building — whose body remains in the closet as guests come and go.

In other stories, the humor is more hit and miss. At times it falls completely flat, as in an episode concerning a cross-dressing weatherman (Barry Papick) who returns to the room in which he was born in order to commit suicide. There he’s visited by an insurance salesman (Mike Kimmel) eager to cash in on his departure.

The film toys with chance and coincidence and the relationship between space and time, depicting vastly different outcomes based on the simple decision to check into one hotel room rather than another.

The shuffling of characters and overlapping of elements from the various stories are reasonably successful, but the comic tone is too uncertain and the writing insufficiently clever to make this technically raw, amateurishly acted effort more than occasionally diverting.

Hotel Room

Production

An Alta Films release (in Spain) of a Baillando con Todos (Barcelona)/The Film Machine (Los Angeles) production. (International sales: Kevin Williams & Associates, Madrid.) Produced by Ferran Viladevall, Marta Figueras. Directed by Cesc Gay, Daniel Gimelberg. Screenplay, Gay.

With

Barbara Boudon, Eric Kraus, Paris Kiely, Xavier Domingo, Heidi Wolfe, David Jacob Ryder, Gary Dennis, Nicholas Devine, Raul Quintana, Lourdes Delgado, Barry Papick, Mike Kimmel.
Camera (B&W), Nick Hoffman; editors, Larry Walkin, Frank Gutierrez; music, Joan Diaz, Jordi Prats; art director, Gimelberg; sound, Curtis Mattikow. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 20, 1998. Running time: 83 MIN. (English dialogue)
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