Berlinale Blog – Never Mind Grand Hotel, Here’s Occidental

     |    Wednesday, der 8. February 2017

By Andrew Horn

Before the days of television, there used to be a show on American radio called, “The Adventures of Vic And Sade”. It was a sort of low-key satire on the usual soap operas of the day with every episode taking some simple and mundane incident in the lives of an “average” small town family and presenting it as though it were complex drama. A favorite episode of mine took as its subject the daily goings on in the local high school, reported by the young son character to his mother as if it were the height of juicy gossip. He described the goings on as “wheels within wheels, crossed wires, a seething river of human emotion.” And this is just what we get in director Neil Beloufa’s movie, “Occidental” (France 2017), screening in the Forum section, which takes us through a series of related and unrelated events in the small Parisian Hotel Occidental during the course of one seemingly random afternoon.

It begins at the check-in counter with a man who may or may not be Italian who rents the bridal suite with a male companion who may or may not be his lover, the both of whom in turn may or may not be thieves. There is also the tight-assed female manager who may or may not be a passionate lovelorn beauty; a hotel guest whose female companion – who may or may not be a prostitute – loses her handbag, which then may or may not have started a whole string of events involving the police, who may or may not be on one side or the other, and ends with a narcoleptic bell boy who may or may not turn out to be “the guy who gets the girl” in the end. And just who is that party of drunken Brits on the 2nd floor, doing and saying things that nobody quite understands?

The whole series of events is presided over by the pretty female hotel clerk, who seems to float bemusedly above it all, and who may or may not be smarter than we think. And it all takes place in a hotel which may or may not be rated three stars. Oh, and did I forget to mention the riot continually going in the streets outside?

There is a well worn expression in many movie synopses that goes, “and then you find out that nothing is as it seems”. In “Occidental”, to the contrary, we find out that in strange and unexpected ways, everything actually IS as it seems. We just aren’t always so sure exactly what that means. But does it matter? There is a line in a movie I once made that goes, “being able to explain everything is over rated” and Hotel Occidental may or may not very well be the proof of that.

„Occidental“ first screens on Saturday, February 11, 7:30 p.m. at Zoo Palast 2. For more information about additional screenings, see the Berlinale website.