Hotel Splendide

on November 26, 2004 by Chris Wiegand
   Not since Jeunet and Caro's "Delicatessen" have cinemagoers been faced with a residence as terrifyingly surreal as the Hotel Splendide. The titular abode of Terence Gross' debut feature is a crumbling ruin situated on a remote island, whose guests arrived from the mainland years ago and have since found it impossible to leave.

   Following the recent death of his beloved hotelier mother, Dezmond Blanche ("Brassed Off's" Stephen Tompkinson) has taken on the task of running the Hotel Splendide himself. His brother Ronald ("Love is the Devil's" Daniel Craig) is the chef, while sister Cora ("Career Girls'" Katrin Cartlidge) runs the hotel's colonic treatment room. Their mother's presence is still felt in the daily life of the hotel, but her established routines are put into a spin with the arrival of the former sous-chef Kath ("The Sixth Sense's" Toni Collette), who has returned to the island to straighten out her relationship with Ronald. Kath spices up the hotel's menu, subsequently awakening the guests' interests in life on the mainland, much to Dezmond's disapproval.

   The stylized look of "Hotel Splendide" has clearly been influenced by "Delicatessen." The sets, painted in a ghastly palette of sickly colors, are similarly elaborate and the hotel's residents are equally grotesque. Our initial guide is the red-haired Stanley Smith (an impressive Hugh O'Conor), who performs bizarre cabaret routines in the hotel bar, dressed in a variety of shocking checked suits. Stephen Tompkinson gives a tour-de-force performance of greasy creepiness as the repulsive Dezmond, contrasting with Toni Collette's delightful turn as the life-loving Kath. This is a promising and fantastical feature debut with a distinctly European quirkiness, which makes a change from the social realism and East End crime that have pervaded recent British movies. Gross tells his story with a well-judged combination of humor and menace, and audiences should wait until the very end for a final comic touch.    Starring Toni Collette, Daniel Craig, Katrin Cartlidge and Stephen Tompkinson. Directed and written by Terence Gross. Produced by Ildiko Kemeny. No distributor set. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 94 min.

Tags: ni Collette, Daniel Craig, Katrin Cartlidge and Stephen Tompkinson. Directed, written by Terence Gross, Produced by Ildiko Kemeny, Comedy

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