Thursday, November 8, 2007

Critical Reactions #11 (The Hotel New Hampshire)

Opening in the spring of 1984, THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE received mostly negative reactions critics and the public. It did find some support, and has since gone onto a have small cult following, but for the most part THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE has never been a critical or popular favorite.

Some of the critics, especially the older male ones, really had their knives out for the film, director Tony Richardson, and the young cast. Frankly the little respect I had left for critics like Vincent Canby and Rex Reed has vanished completely after reading their incredible rude and sexist comments concerning Jodie Foster's appearance. Canby wrote, "she had better watch those malteds between classes at Yale" while Rex Reed added, "Foster is pasty, pudgy and too asexual to attract gnats". Way to review the film at hand you self absorbed twits. Hadn't Jodie Foster been through enough in the early eighties without having these leering assholes passing as film critics writing stuff like this in major publications? It really makes me sick.
Here is a selection of quotes, positive and negative, actually related to the film on the screen.

"The movie looks great...Richardson demonstrates a good deal of skill in the way he successfully squeezes most of the Berry family adventures into a film of normal length...too many colorful characters tend to cancel one another out...the movie means to be trendy bit it is out of touch...Kinski is absolutely humorous as Susie The Bear...THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE is exhausting."
-Vincent Canby, New York Times-

"This macabre, whimsical, erotic, dark, seriocomic film is a complex tale about an eccentric family and the psychological and emotional maelstroms that follow them around from New England to New York to Vienna, where the Hotel New Hampshire is located. Writer-director Tony Richardson worked from the convoluted novel by John Irving that covers most universally saleable topics — homosexuality, death, incest, abandonment, Nazis, masochism, terrorists, rape, mental instability, and anarchists....Associated with the family is Suzie the Bear (Nastassja Kinski) who is not secure enough to come out of her bear suit. One friend of the family, Freud (Wallace Shawn), has been blinded by the Nazis and is running the Hotel New Hampshire in Vienna when he asks everyone to come and help him out. By this time, the plot has run out of room, and the climactic endings to several unresolved relationships happen in quick succession."
-All Movie Guide-

"Veers between brilliance and banality with an almost manic enthusiasm."
-Andrew Howe, EFilmCritic-

"THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE wants to be both charming; a fairy tale with wings of steel. It's engines roar but it doesn't fly."
-Jack Kroll, Newsweek-

"Notable mainly for its magnificent cast, The Hotel New Hampshire has garnered a healthy share of nasty reviews. This is perhaps because many of the issues dealt with in the movie were considered taboo back in the early eighties, but it’s rare that a movie actually gets better as it ages. While it’s not likely to break your back with laughter and it’s far from a great movie, fans of John Irving (or the myriad actors involved) could do a lot worse than giving this one a look."
-Scott Weinberg, Apollo Film-

"Richardson was obviously a brave man to adapt and direct this screen version of John Irving's ultra-whimsical 1981 novel, with serial hotelier Bridges eventually leading his family to Vienna in his quest for the perfect establishment...If it worked on the page, however, it's glassy and bewildering on screen, somehow contriving torpor from a catalogue of sensationalism and eccentricity. Irving ties the novel together with oft-repeated pat homilies on the human condition ('Keep passing the open windows'), but writer/director Richardson's aim for stylistic continuity through relentlessly jolly Offenbach arrangements on the soundtrack is an ultimately self-defeating gesture further distancing the viewer from the on-screen shenanigans."
-Time Out Film Guide-

"The film and cast rarely touch the earth, which makes it hard for them to touch a moviegoers heart."
-Richard Corliss, Time-

"The ensemble acting in this film is commendable, given the dramatic fireworks exploding in all directions...Everything in this domestic comedy about the Berry family is exaggerated — from its idiosyncratic characters to its zany incidents to its far-flung settings. Only the most adventuresome film goer will be able to look beyond the vulgar language and the strange antics on the screen to see the insightful messages about familial politics contained in the story."
-Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice-

"sometimes irritating mixture of farce and insight into the human condition worked better on paper. As Bridges and his family pull together to establish the hotel they have always dreamed of, everything thinkable - and unthinkable - happens to them. A series of sexual adventures (or misadventures) sees Foster gang-raped, but she also gets to have sex with Kinski dressed in bear suit, in what must be her most bizarre role to date. A failed literary adaptation...still curiosity worth checking into."
-Channel 4 Film-

"A clumsy cartoon...Foster's smirking work is rivaled in unpleasantness only by Nastassja Kinski as a woman hiding in a bear costume."
-Howard Kissel, Women's Wear Daily-

"Too deliberately quirky, but always watchable."
-Ken Hanke, Mountain Express-

"As might be expected, Hotel really doesn't work onscreen, despite the best efforts of writer/director Tony Richardson, some of which pay off and some of which seriously miss the mark. The film's biggest failing is probably its inability to find a consistent tone (or to make its many tones mesh together harmoniously), although its disjointed narrative runs a close second. With so much going on in the film, there's not enough time to really explore the characters themselves, although the cast generally manages to fill in the blanks admirably."
-Craig Butler, MSN-

"The witless, amoral adaptation of John Irving's novel about a very strange family's adventures in New Hampshire, Vienna and New York City, which include gang rape, incest, and Kinski in a bear suit."

"Tony Richardson's adaptation of The Hotel New Hampshire proves that the unique qualities of John Irving's fiction are accessible in print and elusive on screen. (Not surprisingly, Irving's books were not truly successful as films until Irving himself adapted The Cider House Rules, although some viewers will prefer The World According to Garp.) Here, Richardson distills the essence of Irving but misses the author's dominant themes; the result is a film that follows Irving closely and understands its characters without ever giving them complete and coherent personalities. Without that essential ingredient, this film--about..."

"The Hotel New Hampshire” is a dreadfully long movie about a family as dysfunctional as any family can get. Adapted from John Irving’s novel, the film boasts the brains to be an intelligent drama with a touch of comedy, but the plot falls off the deep-end into tasteless, unjustifiable obscurity."
-Scott Spicciati, Aggressive Voice-

" The film develops a bitter, cynical sense of irony throughout. However, the final stages seem rushed, packed with incident but losing the tonal assurance of much of the first half and glossing over narrative developments in a kind of uncontrollably elliptical structure. Thus, the film gives the impression that finally it has slipped out of Richardson’s grasp and he is left with incidents in search of coherence. This protracted, episodic descent ultimately sinks the film. Nevertheless, as a piece of bitter whimsy, a vision of life’s perhaps inevitable disappointment and the burden of dreams, The Hotel New Hampshire is a genuine oddment to be treasured for its better moments. Befittingly, much of the film concerns intangible emotions and the imperative to somehow express them in relation to place and in the process make them tangible...Although the main characters are eccentric, the film is remarkable for the way it makes them seem almost normal, and the world around them the true abnormality – no wonder that in their world the forbidden and the dream is all that is left bar despair. In so charting their fleeting triumph, the film endorses them."

"The film's tone is sour...Kinski pulls the assignment...sweaty and tousled, she is actually quite good..."
-Sheila Benson, LA Times-

"The whole film is told in the style of a credit of the most faithful movie adaptations ever-faithful in both letter and spirit..."
-Richard Combs, Monthly Film Bulletin-

"...very funny...Foster is marvelous...generally well cast and performed...(but) great art this is far from."
-John Coleman, New Statesman-

"...disastrous...stupid, weightless and empty of meaning...what did Richardson become obsessed with? In this idiot's burlesque, the actors are not so much used as used up...Richardson packs too many sardines into the tin, the movie looks squeezed, shapeless, jumbled."
-David Denby, New York-

"Total disaster...a revolting exercise in cinematic diarrhea...sick, nauseating, humorless and ultimately pointless...Kinski has proven countless times before she can't act...nothing about THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE works on any level."
-Rex Reed, New York Post- (He didn't like the film)

"By virtue of its faithfulness to the source, Richardson's movie is two movies...Kinski is miscast...What's wrong with the Kinski character is what's wrong with the movie. In a movie what you see is what you get. It's literal. Saying she's ugly doesn't make her ugly."
-Joseph Gelmis, Newsday-

"A funny thing happened on my way to reviewing THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE, I encountered some people who actually liked it! Why would, how could, anyone enjoy this botched mess, this shambles of a movie? Kinski, for once pleasantly at home in a wildly disorganized circus in which she does not have to labor in vain to make sense as a character...I would have had serious problems with THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE even if it had been a better movie...the wrong reasons for liking it (are) cultural snobbery, generational complacency, moral flabbiness, and the nihilism of convenience."
-Andrew Sarris, Village Voice-

As you can see, critical reaction was very much divided on THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE, with it mostly veering towards the negative. I will be posting my own reactions to this very interesting film soon, as well as taking my usual look at other things connected with it.


Anonymous said...

It is hard to take your comments seriously because in the films that you have commented upon so far, your opinion seems to be that all of Nastassja films are great. Having seen the vast majority of her films, some are a lot better than others and some are pure crap. This is not to take anything away from her acting skills that are always superlative. I don't really care what any critic has to say about her because I don't need their agreement as to her acting skills and screen presence. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and it amounts to beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Jeremy Richey said...

Well, actually if you read through the blog I have given negative reviews to SPRING SYMPHONY and FOR YOUR LOVE mixed reviews at best to TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER and PASSION FLOWER HOTEL. I have also tried to point out the faults of films like STAY AS YOU ARE, EXPOSED and UNFAITHFULLY YOURS. I would say the only films I have given across the board great marks to have been WRONG MOVE, TESS, CAT PEOPLE and MOON IN THE GUTTER. That is 4 out of 12 so I have hardly said all of her films are "great"...I would ask that you go back through the blog and re-read some of these to see what I mean...if you dodn't agree with my thoughts on them that is fine. But saying that I have said all of them are great just isn't true.

As for the outside critical reactions...I am posting these because I think it is important to keep her career in context...I think it would be damaging to look at it through rose colored glasses.

My rather harsh statements towards Canby and Reed here aren't because of their reactions to the film, but their beating up of Jodie Foster's physical appearance which I thought was overwhelmingly rude, sexist and tasteless.

Unfortunately many of Nastassja's later films are poor and I will reflect on that in my views of I suppose if you want to see more negative thoughts then check back the meantime I really admire films like HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE (which I still think is flawed and I will look at those faults), and MARIA'S LOVERS not because I am trying to say everything is great but because I think they are good films...

Rogue Spy 007 said...

Like I mentioned on the Moon in the Gutter blog, I've heard mostly negative reaction to this film. I'm not sure I ever met anyone who had seen it who liked it. I was always interested to see if it was as bad as people said. Sometimes I've had films that others hated, but I ended up liking them though. It's a shame to see Jodie Foster's appearance criticized like this. What does that have to do with the film. It is very demeaning.

Anonymous said...

Let's just discuss Stay As You Are where you wrote:

STAY AS YOU ARE does break down a bit towards the end. It plays out a little too long and the film's final moments are a little too simple for the films good. I get the feeling that ultimately Lattauda didn't know how to end the film and finally just perhaps took the easiest way out.

The ending of the film was neither simple nor the easy way out. Perhaps a clever writer might be able to come up with something besides a fairy tale ending where Nastassja's character and Mastroianni's character go off into the sunset. The ending of the film was set up when it is told how Mastroianni's character was dumped by her mother. Hence there is not a too startling symmetry with how mother and daughter ended their affairs with Mastroianni and he knows it. How would you suggest the film might otherwise end? If anything, the film does not break down at the end, is not too long, and Lattauda knew what he was doing. The film is cohesive and there is no reason to conclude that it is flawed.

As to Moon in the Gutter, I had watched the VHS tape of it a few years ago and with your articles and reviews had to revisit the tape. The first time that I watched I didn't like it much and still don't. The editing leaves something to be desired. The music is bombastic and irritating. And Nastassja was not very well shot, she can and should have looked a lot better.

Jeremy Richey said...

We'll have to agree to disagree. I'm not a screenwriter so I don't have an answer as to how to end STAY AS YOU ARE differently. It's just my opinion that it feels too easy (whereas it is yours that it doesn't)...
as for MOON IN THE GUTTER. I love the films editing and music, and think that they both give the film a wonderfully odd and poetic feel. As for the way Nastassja was shot, I think she is at her most beautiful in the film. I have to totally disagree with you about that, but everyone can (and should) have different opinions on art.

cinebeats said...

Count me in as someone who loves this movie. Am I a little crazy? Do I have odd taste? Yes to both, but I still think it's a worthwhile film.

Critics have always seemed to have their knives out for Tony Richardson. Going back to his work in the sixties after his popular Tom Jones, you'll find plenty of critics who could not understand his quirky films and interest in unusual characters. His influence on directors like John Waters for example is pretty amazing. Richardson's later films from 1965 to his last film in 1994 are in bad need of being revisited.

Anyway, I'm always grateful that you take the time to collect and post these negative comments Jeremy. It reminds of my of why I tend to loath 75% of the film criticism I've read over the years.

These days critics are somewhat more willing to review unusual films with a more open-mind and heap praise on genre movies, but 20 years ago you would be hard pressed to find any mainstream/respected critic who did. I think the movie does John Irving proud.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks so much Kimberly. Your comments mean a lot, and I totally agree with you.
Anytime I doubt putting these critical reactions on here, I will re-read your comments.
Thanks so much.