The Electric Hotel

Written by Dominic Smith
Review by Edward James

The Electric Hotel is a story within a story, with the main narrative set within a poignant outer frame. It is 1963, and a young graduate student researching the early history of the cinema discovers that a once famous film director, a pioneer of the silent movies, is eking out his reclusive old age in a run-down hotel in Los Angeles. He finds him in a hotel suite stacked with reels of decaying film, including his lost masterpiece, and in return for an offer to preserve the film (and avert a catastrophic fire) coaxes him to share the story of his life.

The main narrative is told in short takes, like a silent film, with the same slightly unreal quality. The director, Claude, sees his past life through a lens. The main characters are fictional, but the Lumiere brothers are there, and so too is Edison, and the technical detail is convincing. It is a story of stifled ambition and frustrated love, redeemed in part by the young researcher who resurrects and rescreens the lost film, The Electric Hotel.

A strange and haunting story which is difficult to forget.