no critical whateverthehell motion picture edition: new rose hotel

Somehow I’ve developed a slight preoccupation with cyberpunk, as if two months in Chiang Mai has rendered me fifteen again. Maybe it’s the crumbling concrete and the thirteen different languages heard a day and my gradual slide into nocturnal habit. I don’t know, but it’s there, and it somehow led to things like torrenting the Japanese cut of Johnny Mnemonic (still really awkward and goofy but now with more Lundgren and Takeshi!), and Snatcher, for the Sega CD, emulated on my netbook, played with a cheap USB pad bought in something something Plaza at the edge of night market. I write things, and realize I’m glossing Effinger.

Somewhere in the idle hours I read about the other Gibson story adapted to film, New Rose Hotel, described in some places as an “erotic thriller”, directed by Abel Ferrara of Bad Lieutenant and King of New York fame. Had I heard about this before? I don’t know. More and more it seems I remember nothing that I don’t write down in my own hand.

I was curious, so I took the steps, waited on my copy. Didn’t expect much from it, though I had enjoyed the other Ferrara movies I’ve seen. Most reviews indicated obscure for a reason.

So: Two men, Fox and X, Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe. They hire a woman, Sandii, to seduce a scientist away from one corporation and convince him to work for another. It seems to go smoothly enough, but X falls in love with Sandii, and Sandii betrays them. Fox dies, X holes up with his memories and self-pity. Nothing to complex or involved, about par for Gibson’s work. A few notes:

The film clings tenaciously to X. He isn’t there for most of the corporate espionage shenanigans, so you don’t see them. If the only word he gets is a phone call and some grainy video, that’s all you get in turn. I appreciate the way it follows one character’s point of view, letting the overall arc of the plot be suggested rather than dwelled on. In a way, this reminds me of Gibson’s fiction, or at least his most recent work (it has been some time, maybe as long as a decade, since I actually read the Sprawl or Bridge novels), where he focuses on incidental, peripheral things that work their way slowly around to some climax so muted as to seem ghostlike, a parodic dream of the thriller. The difference is that Gibson fills his foreground with minor action and the psychological landscape of his characters, and Ferrara fills it with dialogue.

Not all of the dialogue works: scenes go on for too long, breaking the rythm and the mood of the film. The vague near future is sketched through grainy pans of industry at sunset; a PDA with green-tinted video superimposed in it; jerky, blown-up videotape of streets, alleys, flashes of memory. At times, its hypnotic. Then someone won’t shut the hell up.

New Rose Hotel reminds me of a coarser, talkier Wong Kar Wai movie, with corporate espionage suggested somewhere in the negative space instead of just further layers of emotional whatever. Nat King Cole replaced by Schoolly D, more oblique layers of emotion replaced with frank, “erotic thriller” sleeze. There’s even that slightly jerky frame-doubled slow-motion.

About twenty minutes before the end of the film, everything has gone to pot: Fox dies, awkwardly. Sandii’s betrayal becomes implicit. X heads to the titular hotel, where the remainder of the film dwells with him, flashing back to previous scenes, nursing a gun. This has been criticized as padding or, in the cases where there’s some new details or dialogue added to the scene, as needless structural tomfoolery, but I kind of liked it. Usually, the additions focus on a moment of doubt X has about Sandii, doubt that he quickly disregards because of his infatuation. The film being from X’s point of view, it makes sense that it would gloss over the things he glosses over, ignore the things he chooses to ignore and then come back, with him, to the memory of those things once he realizes his mistakes. The old “character has a realization so we’ll show you some flashbacks to spell it out” bit, which usually offends me with its air of handholding. But here it’s revealing information that was withheld, or recontextualizing what you’ve already seen. It was withheld, not just to provide for a twist (like most of the film, her betrayal is so underplayed as it occurs that it hardly feels like a twist), but to be consistant with the film’s point of view. The actual execution is a bit clumsy, but I appreciate the idea.

A little cheap, a little slow, a little awkward when it tries to play the straight thriller, but it pushes my narrative point of view buttons. Overall, it feels like a sloppy first draft for a film that could have been really compelling.

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~ by ironcupshrug on 12/10/2009.

One Response to “no critical whateverthehell motion picture edition: new rose hotel”

  1. i think i need that film..

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