DIRECTED BY: Wim Wenders
FEATURING:, , , Jimmy Smits,
PLOT: Following the death of a trust-fund kid at a downtown Los Angeles transient hotel, an unorthodox FBI agent arrives to interrogate the residents, enlisting the help of a mentally challenged man-child who holds a candle for a disaffected prostitute.
WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: The dream collaboration of a notoriously iconoclastic film director and a rock star whose imagination always skirts with pretension, The Million Dollar Hotel thumbs its nose at convention even as it dives into classic genres and tropes. The result is a film that rarely makes sense and borders on incompetence, but revels in its absurdities and comes out happier for all its quirks.
COMMENTS: Wenders’ 1991 film Until the End of the World was, among other things, a piece of near-future science fiction in which he tried to envision a world almost like ours, but with just a touch of futurism. This approach extended to the soundtrack, for which the director solicited a murderer’s row of music legends—Talking Heads, R.E.M., Lou Reed, Patti Smith, among many—to envision their own sound at the turn of the millennium and contribute a song in that style. Included in that company was U2, a band for whom Wenders had recently directed a video, and which he enlisted to compose the title song. Clearly, Wenders and lead singer Bono hit it off. Which might explain why, when the real year 2000 finally arrived, Wenders would draw upon a story directly from Bono’s mind for the subject of his next film.
What they concocted together is almost a simulacrum of a detective movie. There is ostensibly a plot about the mysterious death of a powerful billionaire’s son (an uncredited) who has tossed aside his wealth to slum it in an L.A. flophouse. There is a detective who comes into a tight-knit community to expose its secrets, and there are the members of that community who attempt to unite against the outside world while still profiting individually. But all this amounts to something leagues beyond a MacGuffin, becoming a hook so irrelevant that it’s hard to imagine there was any real goal other than to give each actor a chance to shape themselves into the weirdest character they could imagine. Their motivations and the excitement with which they pursue them are universally disproportionate and baroque. It’s as if Bono’s entire story treatment read, “Think ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but everyone in it is cr-A-zeeee!”
To call the performances mannered is to indulge in breathtaking understatement. Wenders seems to have told the actors to “go bigger,” and each answers the call. Davies leads the way with a performance that skirts dangerously close to Tropic Thunder’s warning about filmed portrayals of the mentally challenged. Smits is given free Continue reading APOCRAPHYA CANDIDATE: THE MILLION DOLLAR HOTEL (2000)