How odd is Terence Gross’ solo directorial effort Hotel Splendide? It’s about as eccentric as modern British cinema gets. Imagine Michael Powell’s marvelous St Kilda drama The Edge of The World had been bred with Peter Greenaway’s Drowning By Numbers and then hand- reared by Bill Forsyth on a diet of Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges. The resulting offspring would possibly resemble this scatological tale of family, isolation, romance, decay and digestion.
As Daniel Craig gears up for his third outing as James Bond in Skyfall, it’s good to remind oneself of where he came from. Hotel Splendide boasts one of his earliest screen performances of note as the frustrated, eternally angry, lovelorn chef of remote resort The Hotel Splendide. The film also features one of the last major performances from the great British actress Katrin Cartlidge, who died two years later, as his phobia-beset sister.
Turning on a theme of the returning avenger, albeit a beautiful elfin one in the shape of Toni Collette as Kath, Hotel Splendide is about the undoing of tradition, the cutting of the ties that bind and the chaos of old sewerage systems. Engagingly played by a young cast that includes Stephen Tompkinson, Toby Jones and Hugh O’Conor alongside Craig and Cartlidge, Hotel Splendide really is an ensemble one-off. Deliberately paced and prone to outbursts of slapstick, action and other general weirdness, it’s hard to think of another British film from the last decade more surprising or deserving of investigation. One of its many charms is Hungarian cinematographer and director Gyula Pados’ richly satisfying use and lighting of the hotel set, a style he would go on to hone in Fateless and The Duchess.
This dark, surreal and comic independent film was made by Film Four under a Tory government soon to be usurped by a New Labour one. The film itself feels like a redress of old school, regressive values in pursuit of something more freeing. Wherever the journey away from that desolate resort took the main characters, it may be worth a visit one last time.