Director: Antonín Mása
Starring: Petr Cepek, Tatána Fischerová, Marta Krásová, Evald Schorm
Duration: 103 min.
The mysterious story of love and murder of a young poet in a hotel for foreigners.
Hotel For Strangers is a film written and directed by Antonín Mása. It premiered in competition at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival.
An inventive and intriguing film parable crafted in Art Nouveau style, it reconstructs the last days of murdered young idealistic poet Petr Hudec (Petr Cepek) from the brief and often incoherent entries found in his diary. He checks into the Hotel Svet (the Czech word for 'world'), where he is to meet his young lover Veronika (Tatána Fischerová), but finds himself embroiled in a shallow and unwelcoming place, full of lies, deceit, and hypocrisy.
There is a Kafkaesque quality to the narrative, a common trait of Czech New Wave films, however the overall setting creates a unique atmosphere that feels quite different from other works of this era. Along with the artistic and literary influences, Mása also borrows attributes from cinema. There is an unmistakable similarity to Alain Resnais' French New Wave classic Last Year at Marienbad, and there are also recognizable silent film techniques including the frequent use of title cards to provide the thoughts of Petr, or to introduce a scene.
The visuals are fantastic but the story is not as absorbing. The bizarre often nonsensical dialog and fragmented scenes do provide a few laughs, but are difficult to comprehend (a barking bull?), and it all starts to feel tedious and predictable after awhile. We know the protagonist is just going to get pin-balled around from one situation to the next, and his character is slightly too dull, lacking the glowing charisma of the classic old-time comedians that he is modeled after, for us to really care about his fate.
It's certainly unique enough to be worth mentioning in any roundup or study of the Czechoslovak New Wave, but not strong enough to recommend to everyone.
— Bonjour Tristesse