Review of movie "Hotel Splendide"

Review of 'Hotel Splendide'
By Walter Ang
October 2001

In the dreary, wet Saturday afternoon that Jolina visited the city (the typhoon that is), I was contemplating whether or not to venture out the safe confines of my house. After sweeping and mopping, doing the dishes and praying the laundry would dry despite the continuous downpour, I had my fill of domestic chores and went to catch the British filmfest at the Shangri-la Mall.

Sponsored by the British Council, this year's fest was dubbed "Light and Shadow." Surprisingly, the queue wasn't as long as the one during the summer French filmfest. My friend offered that perhaps British dry humor is more difficult to appreciate. Either that, or the rains make staying home seem more fun than getting stuck in traffic and floodwaters.

Also, now that the schoolyear is underway, it's a little harder to get to the mall to catch the filmfest. Another place that's hard to get to is the Hotel Splendide ? a run-down, sad-looking "health" resort smack in the middle of a coastal islet. The sky is always dark, dank and dreary; the halls are cold and rigid.

It's a family enterprise managed by the very stiff eldest brother Dezmond Blanche (Stephen Tompkinson). Brother Ronald (Daniel Craig) runs the kitchen and serves variations of eel and seaweed cuisine every night, while troubled sister Cora (Katrin Cartlidge) treats the handful of long staying guests with colonics, cold water showers and other nasty services.

Guests trudge along under the droning voice recordings left by "Mummy", who has long passed on. She has a menacing, lingering presence as her remains were ceremoniously "buried" in the hotel's central heating system. The system uses the guest's "by-products" as fuel to warm the hotel ? one of Mummy's brilliant ideas, which, of course, includes the "regime" undertaken by the guests.

Things change when the chef's former lover Kath returns. Unresolved feelings surface, old wounds break open, repressed love kindles and sparks fly. Kath was the former sous chef and this leads to some colorful kitchen sparring that brings the hotel and its guests to life. Mummy never really approved of Kath and the heating pipes moan, groan, swell and shudder at her return.

Director Terence Gross has the cheery, permanent resident Stanley Smith (Hugh O' Conor) narrate the goings-on as the movie proceeds to its fitting conclusion. In the end, the sky is still dark, dank and dreary, but it is no longer forlorn as in the beginning. Hotel Splendide is darkly comic with enough oddball characters to keep it going.

The luminous Toni Collete (who played the mother in The Sixth Sense) plays Kath and fills the screen with a light, happy presence. Tompkinson plays the deranged,Oedipal Dezmond with ham and panache that could top John Lithgow. With only an admission fee of P20, the British filmfest deserved a much bigger audience.