7th Singapore Short Cuts - 'Hotel 66' by Anthony Chen

Jeremy: Hotel 66 finds its frequency in a kind of stagey naturalism. In an old creaky hotel fitted with dramatic wall paper and its corridor walls still in a shade of yesteryear's green, two situationally opposed characters cross paths - one is male prostitute who appears like a valued guest and one is pretty hotel staff who is asked to wear a security guard's uniform to avoid looking like a prostitute. Sounds like stage play doesn't it? At first glance, Anthony seems to have taken a step back after his more thought-provoking and daring pieces like Ah Ma and Haze. And by saying a step back, I don't mean the fact that he is opting for a classical style, I mean it feels like it's playing catch up with Wong Kar Wai of the early 2000s. I do admit feeling a little disappointed though the end product is still amazingly immaculate, like his previous works. I mean, for all the Wong Kar Wai wannabes in Singapore, I will give this film the prize for the best tribute film. Raymond: I know Alvin has a lot to say on this one, so let me just give the himbo's perspective k? I love Wong Kar Wai, and the Wong Kar Wai influences are all over this film. So naturally I'm going to be biased and say I love this one too. I love the production design, the mise-en-scene is amazing - from the hallway of the apartment block to the interior lighting and the wallpaper of the lead actor's apartment. And the two leads look ridiculously good. The tenant has a quiet charm to him; he's not overly brooding, and with the right amount of friendliness to come across as polite, as well as a restrained, enigmatic quality to him. The security girl has a freshness and innocence to her that seems so contrary to a security personnel, but it totally fits her character. Her face looks youthful and for lack of a better word - cute - and she's just adorable. Between the two I really can't decide who I like more lol. The whole film has a beautiful lushness to it, and while the director takes his time to build their relationship, it never gets boring at any one point in time.
Alvin: While similarities to the famous HK auteur’s works are hard to turn a blind eye to, I’d have to agree that Hotel 66 is a film that more than manages to hold its own, in originality or otherwise. There is to me, no other aspect that captures this more than the story arcs of the two main characters and the aplomb to which the actors pull it off. The male prostitute - in his suave, self-confident demeanour (looking so even when smoking beside a foul-smelling rubbish dump), and a hotel staff member in all her inquisitive but shy state - two cultural aliens poles apart in every way except in a longing need for companionship. Perhaps one of the film’s penultimate scenes wraps up this film best: both characters sit sheepishly in front of a TV set broadcasting a football match that would otherwise suit neither’s fancy. An awkward silence palpable even through the noisy blaring of the TV set ensues, before a wager serves to break the silence – a result that turns out inconsequential to either. Like what the man behind the aesthetic inspiration behind the film is famed for, Hotel 66 leaves an audience with a poignant take on its themes without feeling too contrived.
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