Over-stylized in direct ratio to its dramatic undernourishment, Japan-South Korean co-prod “The Hotel Venus” offers a bigscreen prequel to cult-hit TV skein “Chonan King.” Those already devoted to “King” rep the sole aud likely to embrace this self-consciously arty yet routinely sentimental tale of a resident hotel’s tragic misfits. Repping a flashy feature debut for helmer Hideta Takahata, combo of beautifully mannered presentation and trite content is best suited to New Director sidebars outside home terrains.
Pretentious, superficial tenor is set by the glam melancholia of narrator Chonan (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi), enigmatic waiter/handyman at a nameless city’s most downtrodden cafe-cum-hotel. Among the romantic losers killing time there are a conscience-plagued, alcoholic former doctor and the ex-nurse whose prostitution supports them both; an abandoned boy grown into angry wannabe-hit man; and the secretive tough guy who shows up one day with his near-mute little daughter. Protag Chonan draws the daughter out, resulting in melted emotional reserves from everyone. Tragic backstories are glimpsed amid much fuss over MTV-style editing gimmicks, artful color distortion and painterly widescreen compositions. Crude melodrama is sole flipside to surface cool. Result is sluggish and silly, despite impressive tech sheen.