Fish-Flavored Baseball Bat

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

VHS Vednesday: Hotel Colonial

HOTEL COLONIAL (1987). Directed by Cinzia Th. Torrini. Starring John Savage, Robert Duvall, and Massimo Troisi.

Roughly treading much of the same ground as Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the 1987 Italian-produced (but English-language) film Hotel Colonial stars John Savage as Marco Venieri, a man who has spent a lifetime distancing himself from the terrorist activities of his brother Luca (Robert Duvall), now a fugitive hiding in Colombia. Upon hearing the reports of his brother's suicide, Marco goes to retrieve Luca's body, and in the course of his journey finds himself thrust headfirst into his brother's corrupt world. (Of course, I wouldn't be spoiling anything to mention that Luca's death has been exaggerated Mark Twain-style; Robert Duvall's co-star billing gives that away.)
The movie often feels as ponderous and slow as Marco's journey, with little payoff to make it worth slogging through. While the influence of Conrad's famous tale is apparent, the movie lacks the original's psychological depth. The only real point of interest is the well-known cast, speaking of which...
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Neither Savage nor Duvall live up to their usual standards in Hotel Colonial; despite their well-established talent, they are left floundering under Torrini's direction. They remain totally unconvincing as brothers, not only due to their physical dissimilarity, but more importantly through the lack of chemistry in their scenes together. Matters aren't helped by the inconsistent accents; Duvall's Italian accent is tenuous at best, and Savage makes no attempt at one whatsoever. (The most laughable moment comes when Marco attempts to bond with an Italian boat captain by appealing to his national pride: "You're Italian? I'M Italian!" No, John, you're not.) Supporting players Rachel Ward and Anna Galiena are given precious little substantial material to work with, and tend to fade into the background. The most memorable performance comes from the celebrated Italian actor/comedian Massimo Troisi (Il Postino) as the grumpy boatman. In his only English-language performance (that I know of), Troisi effortlessly steals all his scenes with his casual charm. It's a shame that Troisi didn't get any attention in America until after his untimely death...



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