Sunday, June 10, 2012
"Room 314": a quintet of short films about couples who stay in one motel room (Michael Knowles)
It sounds like an exercise for a screenwriting or stage-writing workshop. Imagine a motel room un unnamed city, and write different short plays about the couples who stay there. Write what you don’t know.
Michael Knowles did just that, and then aimed to turn one of the five short episodes into a short film. But he went on and did all five, producing a quintet (a set of integrated short films in one setting) in the spirit of “The Decalogue” from the 80s.
The lodging unit is “Room 314”. While the 2005 film (now from Vanguard) played a lot in New England and the location of the Fairfield Inn remains unnamed, I get a certain feel that the film was shot in Texas, perhaps in Austin. I wonder how many motel rooms like this one I have rented in my life when "on the road" and what other stories each room could tell.
The first couple is “Nick and Stacey” (13 min) with Matthew Del Negro and Joelle Carter. Nick, who is quite handsome, is actually a pretty wholesome football player, and good looking, and would never drug a girl. Nevertheless, Stacey can’t remember how she wound up in the room, and Nick remembers she was good.
Now “Harry” (16 min, Matthew Laurence) has taken the room alone to break his AA regime, and his wife Gretchen (Sarah Bennett) has followed him there, with an intervention that may save him from suicide.
“Jack and Kathy” (22 min) intend a physical reunion, and we gradually learn each is married, to someone else. Michael Knowles (the writer and director) and Robin Myhr play the parts. Jack says he is a huckster who can sell anything to anyone. "People are inately cheap. They have no thoughts of their own" he says. He comes right out of the comedy about sales culture, "100 Mile Rule", with its mantra, "always be closing."
“Matt and Tracey” (10 min, Todd Swenson and Monique Vukovic) come to the room already in the midst of some bizarre role-playing game. You gradually notice some physical disfigurements with shocking effect: Todd’s hand and wrist look burned, and Tracey seems mottled. Tracey starts making threats after admitting she’s working. I’m not sure what gives here, although I could guess. I’ve never seen anything like this in a gay male film that I can recall. But I once, in the 1970s, had a “confrontation” with a friend who wanted to impress me that what I saw wasn’t everything. I can now imagine how Knowles could craft my own incident into a film (but it’s not in just one location).
“David and Caly” (about 35 min, the longest piece, with Michael Mosley and Jennifer Marlowe) has a couple pretty much starting over, but then really going all the way, in a climax the depicts real heterosexual passion of which I am not personally capable.
The official site is here. The film has played widely in smaller film festivals around the country.
Picture: Hotel in Ontario (probably Ottawa) where my parents stayed around 1942, estate picture.