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Canada, 1984 (MIFF 1985)

Director: Lea Pool

Lea Pool was born in Soglio, Switzerland in 1950. She emigrated to Canada in 1975 where she studied Communication Arts at Quebec University before directing numerous video productions, short fiction films, documentaries and television productions. For three years she also co-ordinated the German Cinema section of the Montreal World Film Festival. This is her first dramatic feature.

La Femme de L'Hotel centres on a filmmaker, Andrea, who has returned to Montreal where she was born, to film the story of the rise and fall of a once successful singer. In the downtown hotel where she is staying, her path crosses that of another woman, Estelle David, an enigmatic character who seeks refuge in the hotel one morning, although she has just finished packing her bag to leave for somewhere else. She might have travelled from far away, yet she has come only a few blocks to seek refuge in this anonymous place of passage.

As the production of Andrea's film progresses there unfolds a subtle examination of the interrelationships of four people and the effects they have on each other - Andrea, Estelle, Andrea's brother Simon, and the unnamed woman who is playing the lead in Andrea's film. A certain attraction develops between the three women. Simon's character functions to present us with the perspective of the outsider, and that of the camera's eye.

But the concerns of La Femmede L'Hotel range wider. When Andrea and Estelle eventually exchange their personal histories, the parallels between Estelle's life and the character in Andrea's script become apparent. This will have an effect on both women. The almost classical theme of art imitating life and vice versa is here married to the more contemporary theme of growing "female consciousness”, both thereby gaining a new vitality.

There are also tantalising hints of autobiographical detail (Lea Pool completed a television production on Canadian singer Eve just prior to making this film), and some European critics have read the film as an attempt by the director to come to terms with her own Jewish heritage. Canadian critics have tended to welcome the film as a home-grown answer to 'German Women's Films'.

There is a rigour and quiet power evident here that gives the film an undeniable European flavour, worthy of a Chantal Akerman or a Robert Bresson. The warmth, which Lea Pool brings out in her characters, contrasts almost provocatively with her ice cold imagery - her snowed-in, fog bound Montreal almost taking on the appearance of a ghost city.

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