By Nicolás Carrasco
Our setting is a two-star hotel in Paris that seems suspended in the 70’s. In what time frame is this movie set? The riots on the streets outside the hotel seem to refer, rather than to a distant May 1968, to our current times of European crisis. At night and during these revolts, an Italian gay couple arrives at the Occidental Hotel, a microcosm that will represent that night all of Europe and where almost the entire film will take place.
As the new guests ask for a double room at the reception desk, the hotel manager immediately suspects them and calls the police, despite having no evidence against them. Her reasons range from the flirtation of one of them (Paul Hamy from O Ornitologo) with the receptionist, to the liking for Coca-Cola of the other (“Italians don’t drink Coca-Cola,” she tells the police), to other absurd situations that evidence the prejudices of hotel employees, guests and police.
The great success of Beloufa’s second feature is to know how to represent the absurdity of these homophobic, racist and xenophobic behaviors in a society where nobody considers themselves neither homophobic nor racist nor xenophobic, and without falling into the flat characterization of “good immigrants” vs. “mean Europeans”. Part of the richness of the “Italians” Giorgio and his partner as characters lies in their mysterious and sensual behavior, in their sexual and political ambiguity. Are they really guilty of what they are accused of? Are they thieves or terrorists hiding in the hotel? Are they actually gay? Are they Italians or is it all a facade?
In his short film Kempinski (2007), Beloufa made questions about the future to interrogate the present, intercutting reality and fantasy, documentary and science fiction. Occidental, on the other hand, wonders about the past, with sets and costume design that reminds us of Fassbinder and situations that refer to different genres such as film noir, comedy of manners, romance and thriller. And like Fassbinder before him, Beloufa seeks to reflect, through artifice, on the complexity of present-day bourgeois morals and to make us see more clearly the social and political conditions of present Europe.
Guion y dirección: Neïl Beloufa
Cinematography: Guillaume Le Grontec
Editing: Ermanno Corrado
Producers: Jacques Dodart, Hugo Jeuffrault, Pierre Malachin
Cast: Idir Chender, Anna Ivacheff, Paul Hamy, Louise Orry-Diquero, Hamza Meziani, Brahim Tekfa