“Wanna see my view of Paris?”
This post sort of contains Hotel Chevalier spoilers at the end, but I’ll warn you.
As you know, Wes Anderson’s short film Hotel Chevalier was made available for free on Apple’s iTunes last Tuesday. This was good news for people disappointed to learn that Fox Searchlight had opted not to include the short with public screenings of the film in yet another display of naked avarice on the part of the bean counting stooges running the joint.
Well, the first grumblings I heard on various message boards were that the iTards at Apple were requiring credit card information even though the the 13 minute film itself is free. I’d already coughed up my financial info and downloaded their software for some other purpose I’ve long since forgotten so it wasn’t an issue (I’m kind of a lemming that way. Go ahead, ask me for my credit card info, I’ll probably give it to you), but apparently this isn’t the case for large numbers of Wes Anderson fans.
To make matters worse, it turns out if you don’t live in the United States, you’re screwed altogether. Credit card or not, you can’t get into the club. Sorry, no foreigners allowed; not even if you’re Canadian for crapsakes. While I enjoy the irony of a film with a uniquely European flavor (though Anderson is American…Texan in fact which, if you’ve been there, you know is sort of the exact opposite of Europe) being unavailable to actual card-carrying Europeans, it’s a sad state of affairs.
A glimmer of hope was quickly offered as the sweaty, unwashed Natalie Portman Nude!!! club rallied its sweaty, unwashed resources to post Hotel Chevalier on YouTube and elsewhere. Sadly, I guess due to the strictures of YouTube that only allow 100mb postings, the 150mb short had to be truncated by about 3 minutes. Not a big deal if all you care about is Natalie’s bum, but it sucks all manner of ass for everyone else.
Now, a short film by necessity is already trimmed down to its barest possible essentials and to arbitrarily trim it by almost 25% just because those bits don’t have Natalie Portman’s (admittedly delightful) ass, is in effect a neutering. If all you’ve seen is the 10 minute cut of Hotel Chevalier, you haven’t seen Hotel Chevalier and if you haven’t seen Hotel Chevalier, stop reading now because now I’m going to talk about it a little.
***That was a spoiler warning in case you weren’t paying attention***
Those of you who have suddenly found it fashionable to hate Wes Anderson are really going to hate Hotel Chevalier. For the most part it’s the same fruity, meticulously crafted, arranged and photographed, dioramic representation of life that troubles some people about The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic. Personally, I enjoy real human drama played out as though it’s one of Max Fischer’s plays so I’m happy to continue to ride the Wes Anderson bandwagon. The Royal Tenenbaums is better than Rushmore. There. I said it. The “I liked Anderson before it was cool to like Anderson” contingent is free to send me cards and letters of protest. In order to save you postage however, here is my reply: Suck it.
Now where was I…oh yeah, fruity and meticulous. Chevalier is that indeed, and beautiful by the way (Someone smarter than me took special notice of the striking tonal shift when they go out on the balcony at the end. Up to that point the film had been awash in warm yellows, but out on the balcony, it all turns to a cold blue with an early evening sky, but you can still see yellow, warmly lit windows across the way…), but there is something else going on here. The opening is almost hyper-Wes Anderson. It’s like he’s satirizing his own mannered style as Jason Schwartzman comically tries to order a grilled cheese sandwich in French. Afterwards, the phone rings and it’s Natalie Portman, but she doesn’t sound like a Wes Anderson character. She sounds hard and real. Schwartzman is concerned and so are we. Holy shit, she’s here! She’s coming over!
Then Schwartzman quickly goes about making his hotel room even more composed; more Wes Anderson-ey. He’s dressing a set to look a certain way right down to the soundtrack for when Natalie arrives. And she does. And she touches his carefully arranged things. And she uses his tooth brush. And they have sex. And we see her bum and the side of her breast (and the internet collectively sighs and says “hallelujah”), and it’s real flesh (she’s bruised!), but she’s still an outsider to this universe that Anderson has been creating over the years. I found the impact kind of jarring. Jarring but fascinating. And then there’s that tonal shift I mentioned earlier. They go outside into the harsh real world and it is cold and blue. Beautiful, but a little unsettling.
Jason Schwartzman, an American apparently hiding out in a hotel room in a foreign country. A hotel is sort of the ultimate artificial reality where he can enjoy the fruits of the city from the comfort and safety of his balcony without getting hurt. It’s orderly. It’s cared for. All your needs are met. And then comes Natalie with her crude “What the fuck is going on?” sneer and her bruises, threatening to grab Schwartzman by the hair and drag him back to reality.
Fascinating. I have no real conclusion to draw from all of this. I’m just thinking aloud really. I can’t wait to see if and how any of this connects with The Darjeeling Limited, coming soon to a theater near you. In the mean time I hope everyone gets a chance to see Hotel Chevalier.
Also, I’ve been humming Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) all week.
[10/1 update: Google video has a low quality copy of the entire film sure to displease both celebrity nudity fans and art lovers alike. It looks pretty awful, but maybe it’s better than nothing?]