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Alexandra Kandy Longuet • Director of Vacancy

"A motel is an enclosed space in and of itself"


- Cinergie met with director Alexandra Kandy Longuet to talk about her new feature film Vacancy, soon to be released in Belgian cinemas

Alexandra Kandy Longuet • Director of Vacancy

Following time spent in the US as a teenager, Alexandra Kandy Longuet revisits the country at length, both attracted and repulsed by the American continent which she describes as a "place of friction". Vacancy [+see also:
film review
interview: Alexandra Kandy Longuet
film profile
, the third film she has shot on US soil, is released in Belgian cinemas on Wednesday 3 April.

Cinergie: How did you become interested in American motels?
Alexandra Kandy Longuet: I’d wanted to make this film for a very long time. I first became interested in motels when I was at the School of Fine Arts. A book on philosophy really captured my attention. It drew a parallel between the architecture of motels and the people who lived in them. As if by mimicry, precarious places attract those who are experiencing some form of insecurity. Geographically speaking, motels are always on the edge, or on the margins. They’re also places of artistic fascination, bringing to mind Bagdad Café, Lolita, David Lynch… For several years - and since 2008 in particular - the demographic of those using motels has changed a lot. They used to be used for stopovers by tourists. Now, rooms can be hired by the month or the week; they’re a stopgap for those who find themselves without a roof over their heads. I wanted to go and meet these people, to get to know them better.

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And how did you meet your characters?
Meeting Beverly was a real experience, very powerful. In Fresno, I was put in touch with a homeless man who’d lived in motels and who’d spoken about one motel in particular, which is where I set up shop. It was on a highway lined with motels which all look the same and which are inhabited by locals. It’s not somewhere you can go without an introduction. The people living there are socially excluded: there are unemployed people, prostitutes, drug addicts, gang members... There are also people who work, but who can’t put enough money aside to pay a deposit or pay rent … I was looking for someone who’d been living there for a long time, and this particular man spoke to me about Beverly. I looked for her, but she’d disappeared; no-one knew where she was; no-one knew what was going on with her anymore. And then, one evening, I stumbled across her in a car park. It was like an epiphany. Something happened, I was bowled over! She needed to travel somewhere by car and I helped her out. She’d just come out of hospital, she’d been assaulted; it was a very difficult time for her. She had to start all over again, she’d lost contact with her son… I spent a lot of time with her, one on one. As for Many and Vern, I stopped at a service station in the middle of nowhere, and behind this service station there’s an old, totally derelict motel. That’s where they live; they’re neighbours. I moved in and I spent a bit more time with them.

You don’t open the film up to political questions. And the omnipresent criminality in the movie is perceived as something of a distant threat. You seem to be reconstructing a world that’s totally cut off from reality.
That’s the aim, yes. A motel is an enclosed space in and of itself. As soon as you shut the door, you step outside of any societal concept of time. You’re suspended in time, because it’s always the same. It’s an endless repetition of the same thing. 

Each and every daily act in this particular world seems fraught with hardship.
Every act carried out is aimed at survival. It’s incredibly difficult to think about tomorrow and give order to your life. Everything is done on a day-by-day basis. Get up, move, change room, find money to pay for the room… Beverly doesn’t have a car, she has to find another way of getting around… Going to wash your clothes becomes a real expedition. Putting money aside is almost unthinkable… And, once you’ve managed all that, all that’s left is exhaustion.

Vacancy paints a very bleak portrait of the US.
It’s the true face of America. Arianna Huffington wrote a book called Third World America. It sounds shocking given that we’re talking about the leading world power, but it’s reality: the reality of elderly people who work as sales people or waiters, people who work multiple jobs and still can’t make ends meet, those who sleep in their cars or in motels... That’s the reality of America… And at the same time, it’s a country that still makes us dream.

(Read the full interview in French here.)

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(Translated from French)

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