Punctuating abstract montage and highly textured cinematography with extreme eroticism, Aldo Paparella’s feature debut “Hotels” is a horse of a different color in the neo-neorealist world of Argentine cinema. In a quintet of episodes shot in cities around the world, five mainly hetero couples come together for sex — and despite the title, rarely in hotels. Though some images are explicitly hard-core, they subvert regular pornography through rapid editing and odd camera angles. Pic’s voyeuristic appeal does not, however, tip the scales away from its experimental look and pace, making it difficult to categorize and market. Pic should find favor in indie film meets.
Paparella, a former cinematheque director and now head of the Experimental Video and Film Research Center, is primarily concerned with aesthetics. Each episode, exquisitely filmed by Ariel Vilches and Mariano Molinari using a variety of techniques from DV to 35mm, is stylistically unique. In the first, a Chinese woman roams through an atmospheric Shanghai hotel until she enters a room and performs oral sex on a Caucasian man. An abstract drum soundtrack matches the refined images. Next vignette is shot in Asuncion, Paraguay; an aging butcher prostitutes a young woman tied to a meat-hook in S&M gear. The grainy B&W images and nightmarish horror-film setting in a kind of underground labyrinth are spatially disorienting to the point of questioning the scene’s reality. The third and most original piece, again in B&W, is a sophisticated montage of still photographs of a man and woman copulating in a New York apartment, intercut with incongruous 1950s comic book imagery of aliens and animals.
The Buenos Aires episode features a smiling young woman in a blonde wig interested in another girl. The sensuality is outrageously juxtaposed to cultural, literary and religious imagery. Pic takes a dive in last tale, surprisingly set in Chernobyl. The scientific research of a handsome young man in a flimsy protective suit is fatally interrupted by a wild animal of a girl, who leads him into scenes of eroticism and terror that cross the line into the truly repugnant.
Non-pro cast are mannequins in what is definitely not an actors’ film. Production design is refined and varied throughout; Julio di Risio’s editing, coupled with an attentive use of sound, gives film a strong if abstract rhythm.