Phil Cox & Hikaru Toda: Love Hotel

”You’re nobody till somebody loves you” is the well known song that, among others, accompanies the visit to one of Japan’s 37.000 love hotels, the one in Osaka, Angelo Hotel. This song underlines the tone of a film that works with many characters, chosen from a representative point of view. There is the couple, Mr. And Mrs. Sakamoto, who – in their 40’es – come to give their sex life a revival. There is the pensioner couple, who come to dance in one of the many play rooms offered by the hotel. The single young woman who meets the married man for his secret affair. The gay couple. The old man who does not have sex any longer but comes to have a calm moment, some pornography and to write a letter to his smiling neighbour. And the fashion designer to be, who brings her suitcase for the s & m sessions she performs…

It’s all very respectfully conveyed, no tabloid, it is nice to look at, it’s a light film that has been given a dreamerish touch in colours and editing, in and out of the corridors to the rooms. Of course you go to the bed of some of the customers but you never feel like a naughty peeper. The casted characters are natural in front of the

camera – except for the sequence with the gay couple that has strong sense of set-up and arrangement in dialogue and action – and the whole business around the love hotel is described well: the surveillance room, the way food and equipment is brought to the rooms, the ones working there, especially the manager from whom I would have loved more.

Love hotels are a threatened business. Way into the film this theme is introduced and Angelo Hotel is to be closed, at least for some time if I get it right. The conservative government is apparently cleaning up ”dirty business” but the way the film introduces the hotel, it is difficult to see what should be ”dirty” at that place. 2.8 mio. people are said to visit love hotels every day, and I can only love (sorry!) Mr. and Mrs. Sakamoto and their way of being together, playing games as if they were part of a Bunuel-film, the train conductor game, the doctor game, their fine talk about their relationship now and then, and it feels natural that we are invited to their home, as we are to the garden of Mr. Yamada, 71 years old, close to the neighbour, his secret love with the wonderful smile.

The film had its Northern American premiere at HotDocs, it runs now at Biografilm in Bologna.

UK, France, Japan, 2013, 75 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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