Three documentary films about very strange hotels May 18, 2018

One of the most attractive things about documentaries is that they often take us to very strange places. This time, Guidedoc presents the case of three lucid documentaries made by filmmakers who let themselves be captivated by three very strange hotels. 

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Our first stop is in Colorado, United States, at a motel run by a man named Gerald Foos. At first glance, the place looks like any other roadside motel. If we were there, we would check in, leave our luggage next to the bed and take a shower, without even turning to see an object out of place. But the creepy thing occurs above our heads. While we were taking our shower, Gerald Foos would be peering through a ventilation window fixed in the ceiling looking at us naked. This is  possible thanks to a perfectly hidden passage this sadistic owner built throughout the motel for that purpose. In "Voyeur", a documentary directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury, we unravel the strange case of Foos alongside journalist Gay Talese, who for several years has been conducting an investigation into the voyeur’s experience. The most comical - and at the same time uncomfortable – thing about the documentary is that Foos himself tells everything about his sadistic practice without any embarrassment or regret, even filling himself with pride knowing he owns a motel specifically tailored to meet his needs.

 

 

As if the roof of the previous motel wasn't weird enough, if you looked up in one of the rooms of the next motel, what you see would be just chicken wire. Yes, you read well, chicken wire. We are talking about the historic Sunshine Hotel, a flophouse built in 1920 at 241 Bowery in Manhattan, New York. Conceived as a shelter for marginally displaced guests, this mundane but picturesque hotel opens its doors to the camera of filmmaker Michael Dominic in "Sunshine Hotel". Nathan Smith, the friendly and talkative manager of the place, serves as a guide in our tour around the decadent facilities of the hotel and introduces us to several of the unforgettable guests who basically live there. Many of these characters suffer from alcoholism or mental problems and usually share stories of violence and truncated dreams, experiences that make us reflect on the rougher side of life and how this space means for them the last corner to take refuge in a life who has turned their backs on them. 

 

 

We don’t even have to go outside Manhattan to reach our next destination: Hotel Monterey. We enter here guided by one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema, Chantal Akerman. Her 62 minutes-long documentary “Hotel Monterey” is basically a first-person sensory experience in which a normal hotel becomes a mystical and ghostly place. Vacuum, silence and a slow movement of the camera are the only means Akerman uses to give a dim life to the corridors, rooms and other nooks and crannies of the Hotel. There is a moment in the film when we see a fixed shot of one of the guests as he smiles at the camera in an almost horrendous way. In another scene we just contemplate for several minutes a long and dark corridor. It is an experiment with time, an impressionistic game where the state of mind of this risky female artist is poured over the wallpapers, the dying lights and the proud walls of a building that, filmed in another way, would be a forgettable place.

 

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