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Film Review: Four Rooms
In 1995, Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino directed the anthology comedy film Four Rooms, based on the adult short fiction writings of Roald Dahl. Starring Tim Roth, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Beals, Paul Calderon, Sammi Davis, Valeria Golino, Madonna, David Proval, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, Kathy Griffin, Marisa Tomei, and Tamlyn Tomita, the film grossed $4.3 million at the box office. Madonna won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.
Ted is a bellhop at the once famous Los Angeles Hotel Mon Signor working on New Year’s Eve. The only employee on staff, he finds himself waiting on four different parties with very different problems. One is a coven of witches that need his semen, another sees Ted getting sent to the wrong room and being mistaken for someone else and forced to participate in revenge fantasy. And throughout the night, he’s charged with looking after a Mexican gangster’s children while the end of the night shows his dealings with a famous Hollywood director holding a private cocktail party.
A very bizarre film, Four Rooms is a particularly decent at best film, with segments directed by Rodriguez and Tarantino being the most memorable. Though, it is entertaining to see a film shot in four different and unique directorial styles as well as how the different directors write and present a different interpretation of Ted. Anders makes him a bit socially awkward with the coven, Rockwell turns him into a bit of a reluctant coward during his forced partaking of the revenge fantasy, Rodriguez gives him a fiery temper in his dealings with the gangster’s children and Tarantino portrays him as suave, but apprehensive about the whole situation.
Though it’s only a decent film, what makes the film interesting is how it shows all these events going on, either one after the other or at the same time as all the others, seen when Sarah finds the huge needle and calls another room about it. And the room just happens to be Sigfried’s. It’s a notable concept that shows how just because there’s one story an audience is being presented, that doesn’t mean that nothing else is going on. If in any other film, if the camera were to break away from its main characters and follow an extra or supporting character, a whole new story would be told in the process. It’s kind of like life. So the film does have an engaging concept, it’s just that the stories could have been much better, even though those directed by Rodriguez and Tarantino are memorable in their own way.
But what makes the Rodriguez segment memorable, apart from Ted and his hair trigger temper towards the kids, is the exaggeration of Antonio Banderas’ usual sophisticated yet tough character to the point of it being a downright parody. The ending is the most notable part where the husband and wife come back to the room to find it in shambles and on fire, with one of the kids holding a needle, the other smoking, and a dead prostitute in the bed. His only reaction is to ask Ted if the kids misbehaved at all. What also makes the segment memorable is how exasperated Ted becomes with the kids and their antics to the point that he doesn’t initially believe them when Sarah calls about the aforementioned prostitute. Ted’s near-psychotic rambling about them and how they’ve been driving him crazy throughout the night is also pretty funny.
And then there’s Quentin Tarantino’s segment, which has his thumbprints all over it, including incredibly long tracking shots and engaging conversations that don’t seem like they’re going anywhere, but help to build the scene to its conclusion. What this conversation does is explain the backstory of the situation, which includes the director’s fascination with Jerry Lewis’ The Bellboy and his desire to recreate a famous scene. But what makes it all the more hilarious is that they need Ted to help them because they’re all incredibly drunk and might chop off more than a pinky if they were manning the hatchet. But the segment is so memorable in how the whole thing is executed, the lighter fails to work on the first try and Ted immediately chops the pinky off before anyone can tell him to stop meanwhile, the ice bucket drops and Ted just scoops up the money and swaggers off into the credits.
Meanwhile the segments by Anders and Rockwell, while they have their moments, just sort of lack what makes the final two so memorable.
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