Review: Empire Hotel
by Carlota Moseguí
- Ivo Ferreira's thriller is a nocturnal odyssey set in the slums of Macao about the disappearance of Portuguese identity and gentrification
The second edition of Pingyao Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon International Film Festival (PYIFF), founded by Jia Zhangke and Marco Müller in 2017, hosted the world premiere of Empire Hotel [+see also:
interview: Ivo M Ferreira
film profile], the fourth feature film by Portuguese director Ivo Ferreira (Letters from War [+see also:
Q&A: Ivo M Ferreira
film profile], April Showers). This new film produced by O Som and a Fúria with companies from Hong Kong, Macao and Lebanon was shown as part of the event's Crouching Tiger competition, held in the Chinese province of Shanxi, after being presented to industry and media representatives as a work-in-progress during the second edition of International Film Festival and Awards in Macao.
Filmed entirely in Macau between February and March 2017, Empire Hotel offers a critical look at Portugal's colonial past, and the current gentrification of Macao, in the form of a neo-noirfilm about the secrets of a Portuguese family who settled in the Chinese metropolis half a century prior. The actress Margarida Vila-Nova (Letters from War, Mysteries of Lisbon [+see also:
film profile]) plays the film's protagonist. Maria is a Portuguese woman born in Macao who runs an old motel – founded by her father (CândidoFerreira) with the help of her mother, a Chinese woman – the existence and position of which will result in tragedy.
The ancient and luxurious Empire Hotel is now a haven for prostitutes, homeless people and unemployed old Chinese opera singers in a strategic area for property speculation in the city. Guests who won’t pay are not the only problem Maria and her elderly father are facing. The hotel owners receive offers, which are initially benevolent, to purchase the hotel on a daily basis, which gradually turn into dangerous threats. The man behind the offer is Maria's ex-boyfriend, played by the Portuguese actor Tiago Aldeia (Letters from War). However, the real brain behind the operation, who comes to Macao to demolish the building and destroy the family, is a rich and mysterious buyer named Chu (Rhydian Vaughan).
Empire Hotel is a nocturnal odyssey in the slums of Macau, whose suspense-filled plot, Asian exoticism and neon aesthetics – the latter of which is the result of Susana Gomes’ impeccable direction of photography, having already worked with Ferreira on her previous films – is an homage to Nicolas Winding Refn’s series B noir film Only God Forgives [+see also:
interview: Nicolas Winding Refn
film profile]. The thriller by Ivo Ferreira appropriates a genre film style in order to portray the continued destruction and reconstruction of space, as well as the disappearance of Portuguese identity in this former colony, where the director has lived for many years.
Empire Hotel was produced by O Som and Fúria, Inner Harbour Films (Macau), Titan Films Entertainment (Hong Kong) and Schortcut Films (Lebanon). O Som and a Fúria is also handling international sales.
(Translated from Spanish)
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