Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Must See Docu And It's Canadian

You are correct in thinking this has been one of the bleakest seasons for Canadian TV with an incredible run of series carefully crafted for sale to the U.S. and nothing much else of value.
And then along comes the new documentary Love At The Twilight Motel produced and directed by Alison Rose and it is so mesmerizing I'm betting you won't be able to turn away even for a glass of water.
Shot on one of Miami's seediest streets in a neighborhood of decaying strip motels this one starts off all lyrical images and gauzy thoughts of love and slowly descends into a bleak world of recriminations and sex for sale.
To get from there to there requires a lot of talent and a steady hand at interviewing as Rose (always off camera) listens to the boastful descriptions of lovemaking by a disparate group of Latin Americans who frequently use the motel facilities.
There are some 20 motels located along SW 8th Street in downtown Miami and the facilities are busiest from noon to late afternoon as couples meet and mate and then go their ways (often back to jobs or families).
The talk is boastful, how love is necessary for the men and a business for the women, how nobody seems to care when couples rent room for $25 for two hours, sigh the register as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and then depart into the blazing afternoon sun.
Shot seductively by cinematographer Daniel Grant, the assignations take place behind motel rooms with secluded areas for parking, huge railings to block sight lines and brightly decorations of Cuban art. One can almost smell the moldy curtains and cigaret smoke.
Mr. R tells us of his need for sex outside of his marriage to a puritanical wife he is devoted to. The rail thin Haitian prostitute Rose talks of breaking free from her family at 19 and getting everything she wanted, servicing clients from politicians to plumbers.
Chubby and effusive Gigi says she started out taking orders at a dating service and then found she was wanted despite her excessive poundage while Sara left her small American town with husband in tow determined to be a swinger.
Then there is Richard, the masseur, who services female clients who are often married and boastful Cadillac who was a love them or leave them kind of guy.
But there's nothing in this 82-minute film (made for the NFB) that is in any way titillating. Rose is after deeper emotions and as she peels away the layers we see dark, anguished souls.
Gigi never felt wanted and now feels merely used, she is desperately seeking respectability.
Sara is finding swinging unsatisfying and somehow lonely. Mr. R. is addicted to heroin but only in the motel in the afternoon and Cadillac is struggling with his addictions and had to sign away his daughter for adoption because he couldn't take care of her.
Rose is banned from seeing her children and her dreams of becoming a medical professional slipped away a long time ago. Richard brings home his medical case and is utterly alone.
Director Rose's manner is to cut back and forward from her subjects who are remarkably candid and relaxed. And they're surprised at being treated with such compassion, too.
Ultimately, Love At The Twilight Hotel is an intensely moving human document about survival with flashes of insight that are stunning. At the end the beautiful images have faded and the artifice of the location now seems merely squalid and drab.
MY RATING: *** 1/2.

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