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Hotel Splendide

The scenery chews up the actors in Terence Gross' "Hotel Splendide," a baroque melange of half-baked surrealism and strained absurdity. Freely borrowing visual tropes from "Delicatessen," "Brazil," "Barton Fink" and a dozen or so other sources, this ill-conceived comedy manages to be stunning and soporific at once. Pic boasts a few random moments of droll wit and a game performance by Toni Collette --- who appears to be channeling Liza Minnelli's Pookie Adams from "The Sterile Cuckoo." Fests may beckon, but ticketbuyers will stay away in droves.

The scenery chews up the actors in Terence Gross’ “Hotel Splendide,” a baroque melange of half-baked surrealism and strained absurdity. Freely borrowing visual tropes from “Delicatessen,” “Brazil,” “Barton Fink” and a dozen or so other sources, this ill-conceived comedy manages to be stunning and soporific at once. Pic boasts a few random moments of droll wit and a game performance by Toni Collette — who appears to be channeling Liza Minnelli’s Pookie Adams from “The Sterile Cuckoo.” Fests may beckon, but ticketbuyers will stay away in droves.

Collette plays Kath, a spirited sous-chef who returns after a five-year absence to the title location, a spectacularly dilapidated resort and health spa on a picturesquely desolate coastline. She seeks reconciliation with Ronald (Daniel Craig), the most levelheaded of three siblings who operate Hotel Splendide just the way their late mother wanted, as a purgative purgatory for a dwindling clientele of wan eccentrics. Enemas, thermal mud baths and flavor-free cuisine are prime attractions for paying guests. Audience endures an equally unpleasant regimen, as pic repeatedly focuses on mildew-encrusted tiles, drippy and corroded water pipes and dining room walls as cruddy-looking as an unattended aquarium.

Hotel Splendide

(U.K.-FRANCE)

Production: A FilmFour/TOC Films presentation of a Renegade Films production. (International sales: FilmFour, London.) Produced by Ildiko Kemeny. Executive producers, Robert Buckler, Charles Gassot. Directed, written by Terence Gross. Camera (color), Gyula Pados; editor, Michael Ellis; music, Mark Tschanz; production designer, Alison Dominitz; costume designer, Michele Pernetta; assistant director, Max Keene. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 16, 2000. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: With: Toni Collette, Daniel Craig, Stephen Tompkinson, Katrin Cartlidge, Hugh O'Conor, Helen McCrory, Peter Vaughan.

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