Looking forward to it. I’ve been without power from dusk into just about now, so haven’t had a chance to give the film another look as I was planning to, and am too tired now to have anything quasi-intelligent to say about it anywho.
All right, I think kinda starting off chronologically with Hotel Chevalier makes obvious sense, the only question is whether to continue in that vein or to try and make the connection with later events as they arise which would mean jumping around in the story a lot of and would end up being more tied to the characters than the events. So we’d start with Jack and his girlfriend and possibly connect the things in the Hotel section to wherever they show up in the film. We can play it by ear of course, but for organizing thought it is easier to have some sort of plan. The advantage to the chronological is that we can speak more of how things appear as they unfold, the disadvantage is that it might make the connections backwards a little less clear and it would be hard to stick to as connections will come up that we’ll want to mention when we think of them. Those latter points work to the advantage of a more character connected approach, but that will make the storyline harder to follow unless we repeat ourselves a lot. Any preferences?
Here’s the link to my photobocket account for the stills
I should warn you that some of the subtitles are slightly offtimes due to the way the VLC player and the DVD interacted on the capturing, but I tried to get it as close as I could and mostly it shouldn’t prove any trouble.
I’ll try to get something together for the short to begin with as we can figure out where to go from there without any problems.
I think start with Hotel Chevalier.
All right, I think kinda starting off chronologically with Hotel Chevalier makes obvious sense, the only question is whether to continue in that vein or to try and make the connection with later events as they arise which would mean jumping around in the story a lot of and would end up being more tied to the characters than the events.
I like the start with Hotel Chevalier, too. As for making connection with later events, I would say it depends on the connections. If you the connections help paint a clearer picture of a theme or a character, then that might make make sense. If the connections you’re making are don’t really relate to each other, then that might be confusing. Diving in might be the best thing and just making adjustments as we go. These are just some thoughts and not strong opinions I have.
Btw, thanks for doing this!
All right, to begin with The Hotel Chevalier opens, unsurprisingly enough, in the lobby of a hotel. A hotel is noteworthy for being a place of impermanent residence, a way station, a place where you stay but do not generally live for long periods of time and because of that most of the things which you are surrounded by are not your own they are rented like the room itself. It is also a place where you are served, where there are no expectations on you other than paying the bills. So a hotel a place where one can be free from obligation and responsibility to a large degree.
Opening a movie at the front desk of a hotel, unless the film is about the hotel workers themselves, also can suggest the possibility of many different stories as the people who inhabit a hotel are largely transient and unconnected to each other. So by beginning the film the the desk there is a sort of implicit potential for as many different stories as there are rooms. Hotel Chevalier doesn’t unduly emphasize this, but it is both something of a trope for movies about hotels and it is something that will have some additional emphasis in the full feature as these things are also true of trains, which when they have sleeper cars become something like hotels on wheels.
The phone call to the desk ends up introducing us to the character we will follow as we will quickly see this movie isn’t going to be about the Hotel itself, but one room and one guest in it.
The introduction to that guest is still indirect. It establishes a presence, but not the person beyond their voice and feet. It depersonalizes the character to an extent, and this is further driven home by the image on the television screen which creates a sort of visual rhyme to the person on the bed as all we can see of the people on screen are their feet as well. They, however, are covered by a tarp telling us they are actually dead. This then sets up a sort of parallel with the character who is speaking to the desk which the film will follow up on without much direct comment but with some insistence as we will find the character, Jack, does not wear shoes at all during the movie. (Indeed, the clothing and shoes of all the main characters are given much attention in this manner.)
The movie then cuts to the bed where we can now see who we are dealing with, and we find that the character is not a native speaker of French which adds a further layer of transience to his being an inhabitant there. Visually this is brought home by his being a single occupant of a large bed. He isn’t centered on the bed, but lays on it as if he might be sharing or reserving a space for someone else on the other side. It unbalances the frame as the camera is roughly aligned with the center of the bed suggesting something is missing or is out of balance.
Shortly after ordering his meal, a very American sounding meal I might add suggesting some slight denial or conflict between where he is and where he might prefer to be or might feel more comfortable or familiar being, he gets a phone call from a woman who obviously knows him. (Obviously, due to both the informality of her greeting and by the expectation of being recognized by her voice alone.) He is somewhat nonplussed or otherwise less than enthused by this as his delayed and terse reaction and blank facial expressions show. There is also a corresponding cut which changes the dynamic of the frame and our relation to the character as we are brought in close to see his reaction, or lack thereof, and his alignment to the screen is shifted radically. This feels like something of a shock compared to the more centered composition of a moment before, especially as it shifts the weight of the frame from the left to the right. We can see more clearly now too that the character is color coordinated to the room. He blends in, almost as if he was a part of the decor suggesting an inertia perhaps. Yet with the phone call and the cut we also can now see some shocks of red behind him which cause a sort of clash or add to the mild shock effect. It hints again that there is something a little unsettling about the call.
Which is further borne out by his rather aggressive response to the caller. We are starting to find that there is some indication that this person might be the reason he is here, out of his normal element, as if he is avoiding them, it is possibly a coincidence, but the larger feel of inertia would make it more likely that he is running from than there for some pressing need. Indeed, there is something of a timeless quality to the man in the room which comes from both the blending into it, the impersonal nature of his introduction and the sort of lived in but not owned feel to the room.
After the phone call, where he agrees without much struggle, but with some attitude, for the woman to come to his room we see him start to clean it up somewhat excitedly which seems to belie his conversation and tone. We can also now see the television again which we might have figured out was showing Stalag 17, another movie about a place which is not entirely unlike a hotel, a POW camp, which is yet a further indication of what we can be identified through other means already, but which is also strangely echoed later in the feature through some references to Germans and odd WWII connections.
As he rushed about cleaning and running a bath, he started to come closer to commanding the frame. He is centered, but cut off at the waist, then roughly centered, but distant, then another slightly jarring cut brings him into a centered close up made more intense by the wider shots which preceded it and by its centrality which demands full on attention to the man. We also can now see him react emotionally for the first time. It isn’t much, but it too takes on added weight due to the previous distance in his expression. What he feels though isn’t exactly clear as the actions and reactions seem to have been mixed in a way that isn’t wholly clear, and will continue to be unclear as he goes from cleaning to arranging things strongly suggesting the desire to make some sort of impression on the woman with objects and music.
Not to mention hygiene as it is clear he is trying to impress. We can also perhaps now infer for whom he was reserving the other half of his bed.
And with a knock on the door signalling his guest has arrived, and that prepared music just about to start, I’ll leave it there for now and see if I’ve messed up the stills at all.
Super detailed and interesting analysis!
Jack, does not wear shoes at all during the movie.
What? Really? He doesn’t wear shoes in the entire film? How can that be? (I totally missed that, if true.)
We can also now see the television again which we might have figured out was showing Stalag 17, another movie about a place which is not entirely unlike a hotel, a POW camp, which is yet a further indication of what we can be identified through other means already, but which is also strangely echoed later in the feature through some references to Germans and odd WWII connections.
This is cool. First of all, I had no idea the show was Stalag 17. Second, yes, I remember the two or more scenes with the German ladies in the train—but I had no idea about the connection. (I can’t remember the WWII references.) I’m assuming you have possible theories on the purpose of the Germans and WWII references, and I can’t wait to hear them.
We can also perhaps now infer for whom he was reserving the other half of his bed.
You mean, as long as he’s been living there, he’s been lying on one side of the bed—“reserving” the other side, in anticipation that his gf will return? That’s not hard to believe, but couldn’t he be just used to sleeping or staying on one side? (This is a minor point, but since we’re getting so detailed, I thought I’d throw it out there.)
The film was problematic as a whole, but there were some truly worthwhile scenes that seemed to surface during the areas where Anderson wasn’t over-trying/affecting it.
Nope, as far as we can see he doesn’t wear shoes at all during Darjeeling.
Sure, laying on one side of the bed is perfectly natural in itself, but by having the camera a fair distance away from Jack and framing the shot by centering itself on the middle of the bed with Jack on the far left it adds a lot of visual weight to the empty side of the bed as our eyes tend to read from left to right. This can be seen as making it seem a little like something is missing which can then be potentially understood as an absence that pertains to Jack. I don’t mean he is purposefully or consciously reserving a spot on his bed, the few objects next to him suggest he is alone and has been for awhile, but that he is also perhaps still “waiting for” or tied to someone metaphorically. At first we don’t know what that portends, it could refer to someone he lost and is there brooding or mourning, but when he receives the phone call that possibility seems less likely so it feels a little more like he is there waiting to be found, thus “reserving” a side of the bed for when he is.
Actually, on further reflection, my use of the word reserving wasn’t an apt on as that suggests a sort of positive hope rather than what I was trying to get at which is that he had sort of blocked off a space in the bed or possibly his life for someone who wasn’t there. We will see shortly the difference between reserving as a positive act and this kind of blocking off, but the two are linked in that the blocking is still a sort of awaiting or awareness of an absent other.
Back to the film, as the man answers the door we are introduced to the woman who is the other significant character of the short, the woman who called.
When we first see her she is talking on her cell phone to someone else and making plans for some occasion suggesting that her attention isn’t wholly focused on Jack and that her visit might not be entirely “about” him and/or that she isn’t someone who is tied to tightly to a single person no matter what the cause for her visit. This is one of the few hints we will have about the nature of their relationship.
The music Jack turned on before opening the door is playing and it is claiming a significant part of the soundscape of the scene making it an almost equal partner to the couple. The woman isn’t familiar with the song, so we can assume that the impression Jack is attempting to make isn’t to make her feel comfortable in a familiar way, but is a sort of comment or narrative he is wishing to create about himself, her, or his time there.
Before getting into that though I want to note the woman giving Jack flowers and to call attention to the name of the short and the location it is set in, Hotel Chevalier. A chevalier is roughly the French equivalent to a cavalier or knight and is therefore concerned with codes of chivalry including ideas of courtly love. The woman presenting the flowers and, as we will see, is, at least in most ways, the more dominant of the two characters. There is something then of a traditional role reversal at work here in terms of the aggressor and the one passively waiting. (Role reversal in historic terms associated with courtship, not as current commentary on societal roles.Oh, and one could also associate Chevalier with Maurice of course, but his career largely consisted of playing up to that last name, so the difference isn’t all that significant.)
It is also worth noting here that our introduction to the woman is done with Jack’s back to the camera keeping us from focusing on him as directly and, by having her facing us, serves as a further sort of shift in dominance as she will largely take over the space and maintains the suggestion of being the more powerful force in a manner of speaking.
This is also supported by her tracking him down, which is what she’s referring to in the above still.
Now, we can see the results of Jack’s staging of his room for effect as she examines each display Jack set up for her benefit, and his own presumably. He is trying to create a sort of story about his life here that we know is at least partly illusory. Whether it is meant to draw her to him or to assert further separation isn’t clear to us, and from that we might be able to say isn’t clear to Jack either. The woman examines all the objects with almost a proprietary air, not in the sense of owning them, but of checking up on the work of someone in her charge perhaps. As to the objects themselves, They are set up in little shrines and speak to a desire for sensitivity being made up of art objects, reproductions, candles, a butterfly and music box. This is, in a way, contrasted with the trenchcoat and toothpick look of the woman, hinting a little at the kind of attire someone in a Melville movie might wear which again goes towards a notion of role reversal. He made himself up to be appraised and she is doing the appraising. As to more specific identification of some of the objects, I can’t help much since they are either too small to be seen clearly on the DVD or they are unfamiliar to me, the feel though is what I am focusing on. I would also ask you to keep this scene in mind since it is used for reference in the feature and goes towards making some larger suggestions later on, but I’ll try to reprise the more meaningful stills when those moments arise.
As to the music which has been dominating the soundtrack, it is an ironic song about a woman who seems to have made a name for herself through affectation. A woman who moved from being poor and connected to the singer to travelling in wealthy circles with famous friends and lots of name dropping. It speaks of the divide between the singer and the woman in somewhat sarcastic terms, but with still some shared history. Chidingly affectionate in a way, yet biting also. Whether Jack chose the music as a sort of purposeful commentary or whether the music is commenting on the relationship without Jack’s intent isn’t clear, but it does seem to suggest something of their relationship in terms of his feelings at least. How “fair” those feelings are will, debatedly, remain somewhat unresolved even at the end of the feature film.
The woman continues to dominate the frame and we can see Jack, and his flowers, holding more to the edges of the screen. This goes so far as to have her take over his former centered position in front of the bathroom mirror and use his toothbrush without asking to do so, which is as good a representation of a feeling of ownership as any. Jack has also drawn a bath for her and is quizzed about his hair, which further points to their relative positions.
(I skipped part of the scene there between the woman walking around the apartment and when she is in the bathroom to hold to the point, but the moment I skipped will come up later in the feature so I’ll add that still now.)
This is the first time our attention will be directly called to the luggage, bag number three specifically, although it was present and noticeable earlier, indeed in the very first shot we see of Jack’s feet, and should have caught some of our notice during his cleaning of the room, this shot is more definitive. We see the woman slip a small package into Jack’s bag. What it contains isn’t clear, and it what it might suggest also won’t be clear until the feature, but I include it here for continuity.
Now that the woman has claimed the space and re-established her dominance, more of the drama can play out. At this point, if we are listening to the song closely, we might start to wonder if it is in fact speaking solely to her as the lyrics can be understood as going the other direction as well. Jack has been given the more essentially feminine role after all, and, as can be noted in the stills above, the lyrics might be thought of as referencing his state at least as much as hers. After all, we saw him in bed alone earlier, and the quoted lyrics are immediately followed by her interrogation, fitting the “I want to know the thoughts that surround you” lyric. From the size and decor of the hotel room, and from Jack’s mention of the price in a moment, it is clear he has money as well, so there is a sense of the music now being multi-directional and speaking in different ways to each of the characters depending on how you place the emphasis.
At this point the relationship between them is becoming somewhat clearer, not only in terms of dominance and submission alone, but in the shape those elements took or are taking in their relationship. When the woman first came in the door, she moved towards Jack as if to kiss him, but he instead closed on her for a hug which seemed to cause her some slight surprise. Now with the “What the fuck is going on here?” line we are able to more fully gather how his departure from her and stay here played out. and what it says about their relationship. We already knew that Jack didn’t inform her of where he was, and might be hiding from her, but now there is a feeling that this wasn’t entirely unexpected or deeply worrisome in itself as the way she asks the question doesn’t evince the kind of hurt that might come from abandonment as much as it does perhaps impatience with petulance, more like she is scolding him for disobedience than angry from being wounded.
Jack doesn’t answer, he just sits on the bed. Any deep anger between them remains hidden as she sits down as well and changes her questions to more material matters. The questions and answers tell us they have been a part for quite a while, which might suggest that any deeper hurt has lost its edge or perhaps been tempered by seeing each other again, or perhaps not, or not to both of them anyway as the questions and answers also could show the differences in their relationship. We herd earlier that it wasn’t that hard to track down Jack, yet he’s been here for over a month. The indefinite time period and the need to ask the question at all tells us that they have been apart from each other considerably longer than a month and it perhaps hints that Jack didn’t take pains to not be found which might imply a desire for discovery which has been much delayed. This might be given further evidence by Jack’s lack of precise accounting for his time and his staging of the hotel room. It also suggests that she might have found him earlier if she had tried, but only now has bothered maybe as if he was a misplaced book or something that she has suddenly wanted to reread. There is some confidence in her attitude which is lacking in Jack’s which might also be seen as pointing in that direction as she knew he was around somewhere and just needed to look a little bit to find him as he wasn’t gone but simply out of sight. On the other hand this could be a bluff on her part and being found the result of failure to take precaution on his as there does seem to be some genuine affection in her attitude towards Jack.
The attitude each of them display towards the considerable amount of money spent shows neither is very materially concerned in that regard, and that limits the question of the issues between them to more personal affairs.
A couple of other things I find interesting about this exchange visually. One is that they are sitting more or less in a line across from each other, but by having the camera between them and cutting back and forth they end up on opposite sides of a middle line. They are then both in alignment and opposed to each other simultaneously, which seems suitable. The room the woman is sitting had the curtains drawn on it when Jack was alone and because of that it registered as predominantly yellow, which was, and will be, associated with Jack. Now that she is here, the curtains are open and the red of the carpet starts to feel the more dominant creating a stronger feeling of difference in space between the two and possibly suggesting some associations for the color red as it will be used later on in the feature.
Yet one more thing worth noting is the difference between watching this short without knowledge of the emphasis the feature film will place on events and objects and either watching it after having seen the feature or reflecting on it if one’s memory is strong enough to hold all this information. Looking at Jack in the last still, for example, we see the suitcase in front of him. Since we have just seen the woman place something into the suitcase this might lead one to await Jack’s discovery of that object or for it to play a role in the proceedings. That can give the suitcase a sense of importance to the scene, but one of anticipation primarily. After watching the film and seeing how events play out, we might see the suitcase as coming between them instead, acting as a barrier to their reunion rather than a potential source of added dynamics. This suggests both are equally present in the scene, and that too works towards “both” films ends.
The implicit question between the two of them, where do we go from here? is not expressly addressed by the couple, yet the song seems to speak to it as the separation or distance implied by wanting to look inside your head gives way to lyrics of shared memory and similarity. The visuals too take a turn and move away from the opposition between them to finding a shared space.
When Jack sat down on the bed he had his right hand stretched out onto the bed covers as something of an invitation perhaps. The questions kept the invitation from being answered and the split was maintained, though minimally as the two of them were, visually, just on either side of a middle line. When Jack reaches into his pocket for the chocolate, the camera cuts in for an extreme close up just as the lyrics are suggesting a bond between singer and subject. When it leaves the close up, the shot has been reframed to Jack alone on the far right side of the bed. This is the “answer” shot to the earlier blocking off I was talking about. When Jack was on the left side of the bed, our attention was held on him and it made the right side seem closed off, perhaps as if it was being saved. Now Jack is on the right and our eye has to travel across the empty left side of the bed which might now be seen as being unblocked or open as if the earlier moment was in anticipation of this one.
When the woman comes over to the bed, the suitcase is no longer in sight, no longer between them as it were, and the conversation turns toward reconciliation, at least potentially as what “home” implies isn’t entirely clear, but nonetheless indicates a return and that suggests a possibility of resumption of former ways. However, the dialogue and the song seems to also indicate this is still only a possible return as the “thought I already did” line suggests as much a surrender as it does a more fervent desire, and the “still bear the scars” part of the song also might be felt to indicate that the underlying problems aren’t overlooked but outweighed by the connection they have, a connection that seems to have been as troubling as it was consoling. Nonetheless they are now at least on the same level, literally as they both recline on to the bed looking at each other directly. There might still be a divide between them but there is also shared space, a bond, between them as well.
This moment is interrupted by the food Jack ordered earlier. The connection between them is still there, as can be seen by the shared rhythm of their actions and their facing “each other” across the narrow middle of the room. Two bloody marys are ordered and she nibbles at his food. Food and ordering will continue to play a role in the feature where differences and sharing seem also suggestive. Still, as Jack rubs his neck, there is some indication of concern remaining in the air as well. Nonetheless, as soon as the room service waiter has left, they finally break through the physical barrier between them and kiss.
Once they are back in the bed room, the power relationship between them seems to delineate itself more clearly and perhaps goes towards suggesting something more about what each is getting or had from the relationship. The woman doesn’t relinquish authority, as she thrusts her leg up for Jack to remove her excellent boots, but she is the one being undressed while Jack remains clothed. He takes charge in a way, but it seems more of an arrangement or understanding they have than something being negotiated in the moment. While she is cut off in the frame so we see only her torso, Jack is in frame where we can see his face and excitement. She maintains her dominance, even while he is initiating.
She asks Jack whether he has slept with anybody, after a pause, he says no and repeats the question to her. She pauses before answering as well, but there is some doubt over the answers. I say answers because both paused so they could be understood as answering in the same way, but they could also be understood as pausing for different reasons. We can’t know for sure, but her saying It doesn’t matter anyway and the look on Jack’s face as he agrees and she is once again out of frame, suggests that perhaps it does and knowing this may have colored each of their answers. How one wants to read this exchange, might go towards further explaining the cause of their separation, and by inference, their attraction to each other as what draws them together seems to also be what pushes them apart. The unexplained bruises would be another suggestion towards both, but an equally ambiguous one. She also still remains on top, but he is still dressed going perhaps towards an idea of power and armor as she may be in control, but he maintains at least the illusion of protection which she is comfortable without.
The notion of protection and vulnerability then might be seen as contributing to a sort of shift in the power dynamic as she says things which leave her open to rejoinders which are less than kind. These is an ambiguity still present though which comes from our primary identification being with Jack as the what she says might be just words. This is the crucial moment of the short as it seems to me that our focus on Jack can color the perception of what she is saying and his reaction to it. What we know about the two of them is nothing more than hinted through their exchanges, so any determination of intent or depth of feeling or truth depends heavily on how we cast their roles and how we spread our sympathies. Since we were introduced to the film through Jack and know a little more about the conditions he was living in, we might find little reason to doubt what can be taken as his feeling of hurt, and through them make assumptions on cause which might implicate the woman as being responsible for their relationship being as it is, which is to say troubled at the least. However, there has also been indications of what seems to be real affection on her part towards Jack, and now, at her most physically vulnerable, more emotionally charged talk arises.
What she says can be read in different ways, especially if you ignore the subtitle punctuation to a degree. "No matter what happens in the end I don’t want to lose you as my friend? can suggest an expectation of ending and a preemptive conciliation, or an actual desire for long term connection. That Jack replies “you will never be my friend” suggests what binds them, to him, is something that friendship doesn’t cover, and that carries implications for his view on “love” or whatever he feels for her and how that is somehow different than “friends”, and/or that he sees through what he perceives as deception on her part and rejects it, and/or what he wants is precisely what he is getting as that’s what suits his needs.
That she glosses over his answer might suggest that she is in fact okay with that, and, along with her mentioning she’ll feel like shit tomorrow if they fuck and his response and possibly the bruises, might suggest that this is exactly what she needs as well. Or perhaps that she doesn’t believe him as we’ve seen, she does seem sure of herself around Jack and perhaps this is part of their relationship.
Their expressions don’t give much away either to us or to each other as they seem to be looking for indications of how to understand each other just as we are looking to understand each of them. They seem to know the routine, but they don’t seem to know how to score it. They each attack and retreat in turn and the suggestion that this is nothing new could indicate that they aren’t even sure how to judge any more. The bond is there, but they can’t see it or speak to it directly, they can only find it in the way they interact physically. Something that pulls together and pushes away in equal measures. So when she says “I love you. I never meant to hurt you on purpose.” She may be telling the truth and actually feeling guilt or acknowledging she is the way she is or purposefully setting herself up for more “bruising” from him if she correctly has gauged his answer. His answer; “I don’t care.” could be referring to her statement as a whole or just the never meant to hurt you section, or he too might not be looking for “courtly” love at all but for more of the same, whatever that was and is.
This section is repeated by Jack in the feature verbatim, but there we just here his flat reading of the account. Given she isn’t around, we’ve by then built up a further bond with Jack, and the attitude of the brothers towards her, among other things, we might be more tempted to look back on this episode with an even more jaundiced eye towards the variety of emotional possibilities she might be experiencing and towards Jack’s relationship with her in general. I would only caution hesitation there as I don’t think things are entirely clearer up due to that, but we’ll get into that if we look at the feature itself more closely and then try and tie it back to Chevalier.
In the feature, Jack ends the encounter here, but the short continues on.
(And I’ll continue on for only one more post on it. Take that as you will.)
The exchange ended, and some hurts redressed and/or reopened, the movie as I mentioned, continues. Jack, after a pause, makes an offer that might be conciliatory or simply seeking to change the tone since their passion had altered its path of expression. There is a cut from the bed to the living room where the woman is standing naked and setting the music to reprise. Jack brings her his robe cloaking her vulnerability with what almost comes to be his uniform in the feature film as he wears it so often. Is there the suggestion then of a shared understanding or even just a recognition of the emotional nakedness they have just shared, even if it hasn’t settled anything? Perhaps, the mood between them certainly hasn’t deteriorated, in fact with the end of the questions they seem closer now, which in itself might go back to what binds them and pushes them apart.
The reprisal of the music in this light seems to further connect them as if it is now more plainly speaking to both of them rather than each in turn. It almost feels like it is alluding to a sense of shared self-recognition where each sees themselves in the other, even if they can’t quite see the other themselves as well. In the evening air, looking out at the view of the city, they are finally united as equals, sharing the same space of the frame, looking the same way, and even matching the roofs against the darkening sky and the yellow lights shining forth from the buildings. They embrace more tenderly, and as they walk back in to the hotel room, the camera pans around, away from them to other windows across the way. Is it a happy ending? For them, it ain’t too bad, the feature will juggle with this question in different ways which might cast a different light on this, but as it stands by itself, the mood seems cautiously optimistic for those who want to see good things for the two, and for those more guarded about the relationship, perhaps it could be said to be an ending affording a temporary resignation to themselves and each other as they let the bond hold for one night more and keep their demons at bay.
I, of course, welcome other interpretations of the couple and their actions. When I was writing I tried to keep the “we” stuff mostly to what can be shown as true visually or audibly, interpreting that or simply feeling different about what any of that may mean is entirely individual. The point of these posts is to try and give a fairly detailed set of reasons for how I see the film, not to tell anyone else how to do so. If anything I said resonates with someone, great, if not, that’s fine too.
Or to put it another way, if we think of an artwork as being like a line tied between the artist and their audience, I see art as being in the knots which maintain the connection. The goal isn’t to cut the knots away to sever the connection but to test them for strength to see if they’ll hold.
One last suggestion I might make from a more auteurist standpoint since we’ve been talking about Anderson recently is to try thinking of Hotel Chevalier as a sort of an adult relation to Moonrise Kingdom told more from Sam’s point of view if Moonrise was made of his and Suzy’s later years. Many of the sort of themes more explicitly developed there are implicitly possible here, and even more so once one adds in Darjeeling. I tend not to focus much on Auteurist stuff since it is often so general, but comparisons with more specificity are of interest, even if more in contrast than agreement or from outside auteurism where other directors might be handling similar themes.
Great stuff. And a lot to mull over.
For the sake of reference in the thread, the song is Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?”
“She may be telling the truth and actually feeling guilt or acknowledging she is the way she is or purposefully setting herself up for more “bruising” from him if she correctly has gauged his answer. His answer; “I don’t care.” could be referring to her statement as a whole or just the never meant to hurt you section, or he too might not be looking for “courtly” love at all but for more of the same, whatever that was and is.”
Right, to me that’s one of the more interesting bits of dialogue. It could be, essentially, an expression of forgiveness (that he no longer cares that she hurt him), or it could just be a rejection of the premise that her intentions are an important consideration.
Oh, and just a very elementary observation about all of the above—Anderson’s very controlled use of color. The hotel room is very dominantly yellow, and Anderson has Jack begin the scene dressed in the yellow robe, which suggests he’s strongly attached to to the room, whatever the room represents. However, to meet her, he dons a grey wool suit, and when we eventually see her, she’s wearing a grey coat. The scene is lit in such a way that, as he undresses her, she basically takes on the color of the room, and this is later enhanced by her wearing the yellow robe. Jack, however, remains in the grey suit, and when they go out onto the balcony to see “my view of Paris”, Paris is presented in greys that a very complimentary to Jack’s suit.
Another sort or interesting incidental feature regarding dress is a couple of playful Beatles allusions with Jack. The screenplay specifically refers to his mustache as being like George Harrison’s, and his gray suit and barefootness recall McCartney from the Abbey Road cover photo:
Suitably, heh, the “Paul is dead” cover, which keeps with the sort of resonance I felt the barefeet held from our intro to Jack.
Since the detailed posting seems to hold little interest, should we skip to simply noting correspondences and other noteworthy items from Darjeeling rather than worry about trying to deal with the whole thing? I get the feeling a lot of the details would be unnecessary to go through for either of us Matt as we seem to be in general agreement, but there are still some things I found interesting which I would like to discuss further.
One of those things in the Hotel section is trying to pin down more of the tone of the piece as it is elusive and seems unlikely to be sustained for a longer film. I also found the point where Jack states he will never be her friend of interest as it suggests, depending on how we take it anyway, that the movie might be trying to capture a feeling of need that isn’t matched with want, which might also fit with some of the ideas in the feature of his other films.
Greg, I’m actually enjoying the detailed posting, and I think it might actually be valuable to others who might only now be coming to the film for the first time. Unfortunately I’m not in much of a position to post at length so far this week, but I’m hoping to post in more detail once things loosen up for me . . . also want to rewatch the film since it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.
Yeah, that “I promise, I will never be your friend” bit is interesting because, like “I don’t care”, there’s a bit of ambiguity built into it. In essence, depending on how one reads the scene, one could interpret that line as either “If the relationship doesn’t work out, I want nothing further to do with you” (in which case the incident is sort of a “last hurrah” for the relationship), or, it could be taken to mean something along the lines of “We’ll never be JUST friends” (suggesting an inability/unwillingness to let go). It’s interesting too, to flash forward to the end of the film, when Jack reads them the written version of the story, Francis says “It’s hard for me to judge the ending without knowing the rest of it”, which strikes me as relatively close to Anderson’s intention. Portman’s character intentions are unclear. She says that she’ll feel “like shit” if they fuck, but if she went there intending to do something other than fuck, it’s not at all apparent from what actually happens. The bruises suggest that she’s running away from something undesirable, but beyond that one has to speculate.
Yeah, when you first watch the short things seem deceptively straight forward in a way as Jack is the character we are following it is easy to take certain assumptions based on favoring him. But the more one tries to actually figure out what it is that might be at the root of the problems, the less clear things become. If you withhold the initial sympathy for Jack, then all you are left with is a shifting balance between the two and enough feeling to bring them together and to keep them involved with each other. Everything from the initial phone call to those final lines can be turned to support one or the other as being victim or villain or co-conspirators, the last seeming the most probable if only due to the other options being so vague.
The retelling of the incident at the end of the film is even more interesting due to Jack not being sure how to start the story, and with the addition of the line about not going to Italy, which again sounds like a clear rejection of the woman, since he said he was to meet her there, until you start to think about where he will go, and “home” seems probable now that the brothers have gotten over some of their difficulties, and if home is the answer, that is where the woman wanted him to go all along. Not that we really know what home is to Jack though, as that too was ambiguous.
Oh, and regarding the detailed posting, I actually kind of enjoy doing it, but it is damned time consuming and somewhat frustrating for that if it no one is reading or responding to it, even more so knowing the thread will disappear as soon as we stop posting in it making the endeavor seem a little like writing in the sand. Still, if you’re game I am and I already made all the screencaps anyway. I’ll might have to wait until Wednesday night for anything too involved though.
Right, Peter is the only one of the brothers where one has much of an idea of what he’s eventually going back to (or not). Peter’s sole comment about the story, “I like how mean you are” was interesting as well (as much for what it says about Peter as what it says about Jack).
“Everything from the initial phone call to those final lines can be turned to support one or the other as being victim or villain or co-conspirators, the last seeming the most probable if only due to the other options being so vague”
Right, and for me the issue is further complicated, once you’ve seen the entire film, by Anderson’s placing Portman’s character “on the train” at the end of the film. If he’d intended us to simply see Jack as the victim, it would have been easy enough to simply leave her off the train (which would have made for a nice Keseyesque “on the bus”/“off the bus” division of sympathies), and one would have naturally gravitated toward Jack’s side of the equation).
Part of it is that if you assume Jack is sort of on the run from life and now that he has seemed to figure some things out better, than home is kind of a necessary destination otherwise he would still be running in a sense. Given how the woman says home and Jack’s location, she could have meant simply the US, or, given their obvious familiarity, it might mean home to her if they lived together or perhaps even not. We know Francis never liked her, but we don’t know why that might be, and Peter doesn’t seem overly fond of her either, but Peter hadn’t told his wife he was going to India, how he could be missing so long from her , or what he did tell her is left unexplained, and Francis hasn’t exactly been shown to be either especially kind hearted nor a great judge of people, so their judgments are hardly reliable guides.
We also don’t know what she did that might have hurt Jack. One might assume she cheated on him, but it could be that she broke up with him or insulted him in some way or any number of other things. The exchange about sleeping with other people and the pause and then saying it doesn’t matter anyway, might make her seem disingenuous, but she could be saying that to ease Jack’s mind in case he had done something, which indeed he does later, even as he is checking her messages for some signs of something and not finding anything incriminating. Why she might feel like shit after sleeping with Jack also puts her “guilt” into question as that doesn’t quite seem to fit the idea of her cheating and then coming to get him back, whereas it might fit her having wanted to be apart from him and then changing her mind, which would also explain why she hadn’t found him earlier.
We can get into this later, but one thing related to this is how we respond to all the brothers in terms of how they treat others or act as the film takes some pains to show them as privileged and self absorbed, to their detriment on occasion.
And while I don’t want to go too much into the feature out of order and thus spoil some of the narrative fun, I will add this still now since it came up.
Not only do we see her “on the train” but we see her in bed, alone, drinking another bloody mary and wearing the robe she got from Jack. (Or one very much like it anyway since Jack also has one he will wear throughout.) She’s quite possibly even still in the same hotel room, which, depending on how one reads the train thing, suggest that she didn’t leave the next day as she said she would and is staying due to something that happened during their encounter.
Yes. By placing the room in a compartment on the train it almost suggests a sort of aporia—she’s on the train but off it, she’s stationary but she’s moving, she near Jack but she’s away from him, etc., but at the same time, it’s a kind of return to her, for the viewer, if not for Jack, anyway (and a slightly different version of her, it would seem, than we got in either the hotel episode or Jack’s story).
I guess I’ve jumped the gun a bit regarding the ending of the film, and we can certainly circle back to the beginning of the Darjeeling proper after the end of the short, but one of things that came up in the thread about Royal was that Anderson’s ending seemed to some to be dramatically unsatisfying—that Royal’s funeral at the end was intended to tie up a bunch of of dramatic loose ends which it actually didn’t. I have a different take on what he’s going for (and I think I can support this by looking at that ending in terms of the endings to his other films).
Since the detailed posting seems to hold little interest
No no no no no. Thanks so much for putting the time and effort into this. I’m going to go through it all soon. Right now I’m working on photo editing and so I only have time to read through relatively superficial threads and make dumb comments. Your stuff is more than welcome here.
I believe I agree with you on that, at least on what he isn’t doing. I was particularly pleased, incidentally, by the quote you found where Anderson mentions The River and Husbands as influences on this film as I was somewhat reluctant to initially mention how I felt Anderson’s movies and Cassavetes had some commonalities. On the surface that seems nuts as they formally couldn’t be further apart, but there is an aesthetic logic to it that makes a lot of sense to me due to that seeming polarity.
Yeah, I think that’s part of the magic of Anderson’s films, that he can pull together seemingly disparate elements into aesthetically coherent wholes.
Thanks Nathan. It’s good to know someone is reading all this besides Matt and me, oh, and eventually Jazz of course.
([whispering]: careful about mentioning Cassavetes though, Greg, you might alert the Carney Brigade) ;)
The woman isn’t familiar with the song, so we can assume that the impression Jack is attempting to make isn’t to make her feel comfortable in a familiar way, but is a sort of comment or narrative he is wishing to create about himself, her, or his time there.
There’s that use of “narrative” again. FWIW, I would say something like, “…but he’s trying to create a certain impression of himself—to himself, her or both—or comment on his time there.” I know what you mean by narrative in this context, though.
Now, we can see the results of Jack’s staging of his room for effect as she examines each display Jack set up for her benefit, and his own presumably. He is trying to create a sort of story about his life here that we know is at least partly illusory. Whether it is meant to draw her to him or to assert further separation isn’t clear to us, and from that we might be able to say isn’t clear to Jack either.
How do we know that this impression is at least partly illusory?
I want to say something else about the staging (and the music). A part of me attributes these details to Anderson as a filmmaker more than the character. In other words, I don’t see these things as establishing who the character is so much as expressing something about Anderson as the filmmaker. I’m not saying this reading is proper—indeed, it seems inappropriate, when I really think about it. However, I guess this is the sort of details that seem present in Anderson’s other films. Or does Jack represent Anderson in the film?
The notion of protection and vulnerability then might be seen as contributing to a sort of shift in the power dynamic as she says things which leave her open to rejoinders which are less than kind. These is an ambiguity still present though which comes from our primary identification being with Jack as the what she says might be just words. This is the crucial moment of the short as it seems to me that our focus on Jack can color the perception of what she is saying and his reaction to it.
I agree that the scene where she is lying on Jack is a crucial moment, but I’m not exactly sure why. Are you saying the moment is also crucial in relation to Part 2? If so, why is it crucial?
There is a cut from the bed to the living room where the woman is standing naked and setting the music to reprise.
What’s your take on the purpose of shooting Portman in that position (naked leaning on the dresser?)?
The point of these posts is to try and give a fairly detailed set of reasons for how I see the film, not to tell anyone else how to do so. If anything I said resonates with someone, great, if not, that’s fine too.
I pretty much agree with your reading of the scenes so far, fwiw.
One last suggestion I might make from a more auteurist standpoint since we’ve been talking about Anderson recently is to try thinking of Hotel Chevalier as a sort of an adult relation to Moonrise Kingdom told more from Sam’s point of view if Moonrise was made of his and Suzy’s later years.
That jump threw me off. I don’t really see Sam and Jack as similar characters—not necessarily; ditto Suzy and Portman’s character.
(Since the detailed posting seems to hold little interest, should we skip to simply noting correspondences and other noteworthy items from Darjeeling rather than worry about trying to deal with the whole thing?
No, I’m interested. It’s just hard to find the time to read and think through everything—not to mention to type out a response.
Oh, and regarding the detailed posting, I actually kind of enjoy doing it, but it is damned time consuming and somewhat frustrating for that if it no one is reading or responding to it, even more so knowing the thread will disappear as soon as we stop posting in it making the endeavor seem a little like writing in the sand.
Again, I’m reading and appreciating this. But it’s hard to find the time and energy to respond.
The hotel room is very dominantly yellow, and Anderson has Jack begin the scene dressed in the yellow robe, which suggests he’s strongly attached to to the room, whatever the room represents. However, to meet her, he dons a grey wool suit, and when we eventually see her, she’s wearing a grey coat. The scene is lit in such a way that, as he undresses her, she basically takes on the color of the room, and this is later enhanced by her wearing the yellow robe. Jack, however, remains in the grey suit, and when they go out onto the balcony to see “my view of Paris”, Paris is presented in greys that a very complimentary to Jack’s suit.
So what’s your interpretion of these shifts in color?
Re: Jack and Portman’s character
There is ambiguity, but I generally feel that the emotional bond isn’t very strong—not in a substantive way. I see them more like Sam and Diane from Cheers. There’s a strong, chemical, bond that they can’t shake, but beyond that, there might be very little of substance. The strong attraction—sans a deeper, substantive connection—creates complex feelings and relationship.
I’m curious to hear what you guys think the significance of the relationship is—in relation to the film as a whole. You guys are going into detail about how they feel and whether Jack is a victim or not, but I’m not sure the details or quality of the relationship is so important to the over all film—or at least the importance isn’t clear to me.
“what’s your interpretion of these shifts in color?”
Well, I’d caution against trying to come up with overly specific readings of details like these, Jazz, except to point out that the interior is generally predominantly yellow and the exterior generally predominantly grey, and also that Jack starts off dressed in yellow and changes into grey once she arrives, dressed in grey, but is then undressed and re-dressed in yellow, suggesting a sort of intrusion/usurpation of the space, with Jack being in a sense propelled out of the room in the direction of, figuratively speaking, in the direction of the narrative arc of the film proper.