In a recent article in Sight and Sound, the critic Michael Atkinson described a cinematic micro-genre that had emerged from France in recent years. His term was the ‘absurdist-anxiety thriller’, and he gave the examples of Dominik Moll’s Lemming, Michael Haneke’s Hidden and Emmanuel Carrère’s La Moustache as films which gleefully observed the unravelling of bourgeois families by seemingly irrational forces.
Written and directed by Brice Cauvin, the enigmatic Hotel Harabati is cut from a similar Buñuelian cloth. It centres upon a middle-class Parisian couple – architect Philippe (Laurent Lucas from Lemming and Calvaire) and dubbing artist Marion (Hélène Fillières), who have two young sons.
However, the impulsive decision of the parents to take home a suitcase handed to them at a station, seems to trigger a mysterious chain of events.
Refusing straightforward explanations for the perplexing developments, Cauvin seems to relish playfully teasing the viewer. The elliptical story may unfold in a recognisably everyday world, yet scenes such as the interlude in Syria in search of the elusive title establishment have an undeniably dream-like quality. In portraying characters who are gradually losing control over their lives and sense of selves, Lucas and Fillières give impressive performances, whilst there’s an enjoyable cameo from a diminutive Jewish opera-singer (Anthony Roth Costanzo), for whom Philippe temporarily abandons his family. (Tom Dawson)
GFT, Glasgow & Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Sat 2–Tue 5 Feb.