Frenchman Bruce Cauvin’s debut feature is an elusive thriller which will entice and stimulate some, though no doubt frustrate and irritate others. Much less aggressive in its cryptic nature than a David Lynch work like Mulholland Drive or Inland Empire (as review comparison has actually been made so far) Hotel Harabati (De particulier a particulier) sits naturally within the recent history of angular French thrillers such as Hidden (Cache, Michael Haneke) or Lemming (Dominik Moll). The fact that the film’s male lead is played by Laurent Lucas, the star of Lemming and several other similarly thrilling and sometimes elusive films like Harry He’s Here To Help and Who Killed Bambi? also aids this comparative grouping.
the found bag, however, works as some sort of totemic negative for the pair
When waiting at the train station to set off on their belated honeymoon to Venice, frivolous young couple Philippe (Lucas) and Marion (Helene Fillieres) find that a gentleman who had been chatting to them has left his bag behind. In a moment of whimsical inexplicability the couple decide against handing it in and or even going to Venice, and disappear off with it themselves. The found bag, however, full of Middle Eastern currency and reading Hotel Harabati on its luggage label, works as some sort of totemic negative for the pair, its entry into their lives not functioning as part of some funny game, but instead signalling the start of a spiralling paranoia, confusion and emotional separation.
The film is a mystery-casting amalgamation of elliptical narrative development which cuts out sections of time with seemingly important action contained in them and with often unclear character motivation. Functioning as a kind of puzzle Hotel Harabati will definitely be able to draw some to delve right into it — helped by its strong lead performances, a great supporting cast including Anouk Aime and Julie Gayet, a kinetic and atmospheric (though sometimes repetitive) soundtrack and accomplished filmmaking — though some, as suggested, will be let down by the the fact that it is at least as frustrating as it is entertaining and thought-provoking, and some will find that the former of these elements actually negates the possibility of the latters. However ones feelings lie though it is clear that Hotel Harabati offers great potential and suggests the possibility of great things from the director in future, who may yet come to join the ranks of his fascinating contemporaries such as Dominik Moll, Gilles Marchand and Bruno Dumont.