Noir, as an idea, as a concept, and above all, as a look, continues to hold sway over a well-worn corner of the cinematic imagination, more than half a century after its initial reign on movie screens. From its slick neo version (the Chinatown/L.A. Confidential progression) to out-and-out pastiche (Brick, The Missing Person) more concerned with replicating the signifiers of the genre, the world of hard-bitten detectives and fast-talking dialogue continues to provide endless fodder for movie screens. Sebastian Gutierrez’s Hotel Noir is decidedly of the pastiche school, but alongside noir lingo (a woman is referred to as a “twist”) and rainy nights punctuated by neon signs, it adds some dissonant notes of its own. Told as a series of stories within stories involving a police detective, a pair of troubled female entertainers and a briefcase of cash, the film opens with an odd framing device featuring Danny DeVito as a shower-door salesman relating his close encounters of the sexual kind. But these outré details, which also include a maid with a penchant for dressing up as a superhero, feel largely disconnected, moments out of time in this anachronistic black-and-white world that Gutierrez bathes in moodiness while remaining unconcerned with anything so pedestrian as dramatic cohesion.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 10, 2012