Just as she's about to start a job with room service at a luxury hotel in Paris, a young woman (Virginie Ledoyen) tells her boyfriend that she's pregnant and wants to keep their child. They quarrel but arrange to meet an hour later, and the film then follows her first hour at work in real time. This segment of Benoit Jacquot's compelling 1995 feature, written with Jerome Beaujour, is a stunning demonstration of moral and existential suspense in relation to duration, much like Agnes Varda's 1962 Cleo From 5 to 7. Later the excitement dissipates somewhat, and when the film abandons real time to make room for an epilogue it becomes ordinary. But until then it's an essential piece of filmmaking--not simply as a stylistic exercise but as a fascinating look at a hotel in operation. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, January 24 through 30.

--Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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