I have some good news for those of you living in the vicinity of Berkley. Tomorrow (Oct 1), Natalie will be be giving a presentation and taking part in a discussion about FINCA and Microfinance at the university. You can get all the details you’ll need over here. Hopefully some of you guys can attend and give us a little report. Thanks to Pasha.
The Darjeeling Limited opened the New York Film Festival and the reviews have been a lot better than those out of Venice. I’m not going to post them because of Natalie’s super brief appearance but I found a couple that also mentioned Hotel Chevalier.
“The Darjeeling Limited” has more heart than any other full-length Anderson movie. But I’m afraid it pales in comparison with the short, “Hotel Chevalier,” that Anderson has made to be shown along with it. “Hotel Chevalier” is a sort of preface to “The Darjeeling Limited.” Schwartzman, as Jack, is living in a hotel in Paris (out of a few of those fabulous suitcases), spending whatever money he’s got (we can assume it’s considerable) ordering up grilled-cheese sandwiches from room service. (He gamely asks the person who takes his order for the French word for “cheese.”) A mysterious visitor comes to call, a pixie-vixen in the form of Natalie Portman. She and Jack clearly have a history together — we don’t know exactly what it is. There’s awkwardness between them, but they do find their way into bed.
Somehow, the untold story of “Hotel Chevalier” is 10 times more interesting, and infinitely richer, than the one told outright in “The Darjeeling Limited.” Short films are exceedingly difficult to pull off, but Anderson has made one that’s very close to perfect. (It rivals even the craftsmanship and inventiveness of his terrific American Express commercial, which is a mini-masterpiece.) Maybe that’s because, as a director, Anderson tends to be a maker of models, a builder of small things. The intimate scale of “Hotel Chevalier” suits him just fine, and perhaps the fact that the movie takes place in a luxe hotel room — the most temporary but also the most comfortable of homes — frees him as well. Maybe Anderson will always be a tourist in his own movies. But in “Hotel Chevalier,” among the shortest of all his films, he unpacks his bags and stays a while. In this small movie, he finally finds a home away from home.
Though it won’t be playing in front of the film upon its theatrical release, it’s important people watch Anderson’s short film, Hotel Chevalier (which is now available, for free, on iTunes), prior to screening The Darjeeling Limited. It’s not imperative, mind you, but the feature does go back to that hotel room scene in a variety of different ways, thus the film as a whole becomes a lot more enjoyable. And I can’t say enough about the look of both films, Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limited; shot entirely on location (and on a moving train), as always, Anderson drowns his characters in color. The exteriors are beautiful — they place us there, in the moment, and are not used merely as fancy background for the hell of it.
The 13-minute-long movie acts a prequel of sorts to “Darjeeling,” lending the audience a little backstory on Jack’s despondent attitude at the start of the feature, while explaining why Portman shows up for a split-second cameo at the end. Taking place entirely in a glitzy French hotel, as Jack engages in a battle of flirtations and concerns with his not-so-ex ex-girlfriend, the short not only provides added character dimension, but introduces the eye to the colors and aesthetic distance Anderson is reaching for in “Darjeeling.” It’s worth the effort to find it before a viewing of the feature film.