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The Hotel Venus

Over-stylized in direct ratio to its dramatic undernourishment, Japan-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.

With:
With: Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Miki Nakatani, Park Jung Woo, Ko Do Hee, Jo Eun Ji, Lee Joon Gi, Teruyuki Kagawa, Masachika Ichimura.

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.

The Hotel Venus

Japan-South Korea

Production: An Asmik Ace Entertainment, Shochiku, Fuji Television, Victor Entertainment presentation of a Venus Enterprises production. Produced by Yashushi Ogawa, Kuga Maeda, Masao Teshima, Yuichiro. Executive producers, Chihiro Kameyama, Yasushi Shiina, Teruo Saegusa, Junichi Sakomoto. Directed by Hideta Takahata. Screenplay, Tetsuro Aso.

Crew: Camera (B&W/color, Cinemascope), Jun Nakamura; editor, Takahata; production designer, Yuji Tsuzuki. Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Sept. 23, 2004. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) Korean dialogue. Running time: 125 MIN.

With: With: Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Miki Nakatani, Park Jung Woo, Ko Do Hee, Jo Eun Ji, Lee Joon Gi, Teruyuki Kagawa, Masachika Ichimura.

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