In a Venetian hotel served by ghoulish employees, a film crew shoot a Dogme-style version of The Duchess Of Malfi. A murder attempt allows a back-stabbing producer to take on the director's job.
Mike Figgis' preference to make low budget films on digital video has been greeted with as much derision as applause. He seems desperate to be regarded as an innovator and, thanks to that desperation, it's easy to be suspicious of him.
Much of Hotel is indulgent and messy. The plot flies off at many tangents (including cannibalism, prurient lesbianism and flamenco dancing) that often aren't particularly rewarding. The 'film-within-a-film' conceit allows for some worthless in-jokes. While the lengthy cast list is remarkable, some actors are thrown in front of the camera without much to do. Ifans stands out as the foulmouthed director, but few others get a chance to shine.
Yet Hotel ultimately succeeds, as Figgis embraces developing digital technology with evident fervour, using the split screen employed in Timecode, or a night vision lens, then inventing some new tricks just to see what else he can do.
A fascinating shambles, Hotel explores new possibilities for digital filmmaking. The results are flawed, but the technique is risky, exciting and hard not to admire.