Four Rooms (1995, Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino)


Spoiler alert: these reviews reveal plot twists.

The Hotel Mon Signor, Los Angeles, New Year’s Eve. A bellhop called Ted becomes embroiled in the goings-on of four groups of guests…

What does QT do? Quentin Tarantino and three pals wrote/directed a quarter of this film each – the stories are set in the same hotel on the same night and are linked by a bellhop called Ted. Quentin’s story, The Man from Hollywood, is based on a 1960 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called Man from the South (which itself was an adaptation of a Roald Dahl short story). The characters acknowledge the debt in the dialogue, though for some reason they think the episode was called The Man From Rio. Quentin cast himself as a flamboyant, successful actor called Chester Rush.

Notable characters (The Man From Hollywood only):
* Ted (Tim Roth) is running the hotel singlehanded on New Year’s Eve and is not having fun. After an hour of trauma in the other stories, he’s called by the penthouse and asked to deliver some champagne… Roth is *horrendous* in this film. It’s a jittery, manic, childish, cartoony and intensely irritating performance, gurning and eye-popping all over the place. (In one scene he does a Michael Caine impression, seemingly just to assume himself.) The part was written for Steve Buscemi, but he wisely passed.
* Angela (Jennifer Beals) is hanging out in the penthouse in a dressing gown. She’s one of the main characters in the movie’s second story, and it appears Tarantino added her here simply as a way of connecting the sections.
* Chester Rush (Quentin Tarantino) is an actor staying in the hotel’s penthouse. He’s just had a hit with a movie called Wacky Detective and has high hopes for new film The Dog Catcher. He’s made a bet with a hanger-on that the guy can’t light a cigarette lighter 10 times in a row. If the mate can’t, he loses a finger.
* Norman (Paul Calderón) is the sycophant who’s risking a digit for the bet.
* Leo (Bruce Willis) is Chester’s manager, who’s drunk and distracted by his on-going divorce. Willis is not credited on the film because he did the part for free and that broke union rules.

Returning actors: Tim Roth and Quentin Tarantino were in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, while Bruce Willis and Paul Calderón were just in the latter. Kathy Griffin (Pulp Fiction, ER) appears earlier in the film – as does Madonna, who was mentioned in dialogue in both Dogs and Pulp.

Music: Pretty awful. The score is annoying cocktail-lounge music by a band called Combustible Edison. The film’s theme tune, which plays over a Pink Panther-style animation, is a scat-sung travesty.

Time shifts and chapters: The Man From Hollywood is one scene played in real time. Elsewhere, the movie’s second and third stories seem to be happening concurrently.

Connections: Earlier in the film, producer Lawrence Bender has a cameo as a drunk party guest. He’s credited as Long Hair Yuppie Scum, the same credit he had for a cameo in Pulp Fiction – so let’s assume this is the same man. Around this time, Tarantino did some script-doctoring on films such as Crimson Tide (1995, Tony Scott) and The Rock (1996, Michael Bay).

Review: The opening section of Four Rooms is The Missing Ingredient, written and directed by Allison Anders. It’s a dreary, inconsequential story about a coven of witches trying to resurrect their goddess. They get stuck when they realise they need semen for a spell, so one of them seduces Ted. In story two, The Wrong Man by Alexandre Rockwell, Ted gets caught up with a married couple who are staging a hostage situation as a sex game. It’s very silly. The highlight of the movie is the third quarter, The Misbehavers by Robert Rodriguez, in which Ted has to babysit two children. It has a beginning, a middle and an end, as well as good visual comedy and a pleasingly macabre punchline. So it’s been a mixed bag by the time we reach Tarantino’s The Man From Hollywood, which is a fun enough shaggy-dog story with a good climax. There are two interesting things about the sequence. Firstly, like in Reservoir Dogs, cinephile Quentin actually relies on a theatre-like style. There are numerous uninterrupted takes of actors giving big performances as they move choreographically around the small set. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s long-take-heavy Rope (1948). (Having said that, the final gag is delivered via some nifty editing). And secondly what the scene says about its writer/director is very telling. Between this movie’s production and its release, Quentin acted in From Dusk Till Dawn. A behind-the-scenes film called Full Tilt Boogie was shot on and around the set, and the real-life Tarantino it documents (successful, brash, verbose, upbeat, the centre of attention) is not a million miles away from his Four Room character. Chester Rush rules his little world and does most of the talking. He even appears to be a fan of Quentin Tarantino: his dialogue contains the phrase ‘tasty beverage’, a reference to Pulp Fiction.

The Man From Hollywood: Seven declarative statements out of 10.
Four Rooms overall: Five balls to back up the action of your huge cock out of 10.

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