This is the first film by Enki Bilal, a French-Serbian graphic novelist whole directed only three or four films over the course of 25 years.
I’ve been getting enough people who ask about Soft Riot asking about the films I watch as well, mainly as some of the descriptive terms in interviews and whatnot describe the music as “cinematic”, as well as the mentioning of the influence of films in the musical, lyrical and visual content.
There’s a number of samples of films in the live set as well as the records, notably a segment from the 1978 film The Shout, which I’ll likely cover in a future entry.
But it’s 7am in the morning here, two days before a short tour, so let’s grab a coffee, wipe the crust from our eyes and put in a short entry regarding one film called Bunker Palace Hôtel.
This is the first film by Enki Bilal, a French-Serbian graphic novelist whole directed only three or four films over the course of 25 years. This was his first, released in 1989 and seeing the film after knowing his comic book background one can make the correlation between working in that medium and how it effects his work.
And we’re not talking about Superman or Love and Rockets here. There’s an interesting combination of very classic mid-20th century European feel here with some concepts very grounded in science fiction. This is certainly the case with his two following films, Tykko Moon and Immortal (Ad Vitam), the latter being his most recognizable film.
I’m writing this overview with almost a year behind me since seeing Bunker Palace Hotel, having viewed it some rainy afternoon in South London at a friend’s house, so there isn’t going to be a massive plot summary or in depth analysis. You can figure that out yourself. Heck, there’s even the full film online below. Pick a night where you feel the most misanthropic and stay in and watch it.
The setting is one of those “not sure if it’s the past, not sure if it’s the future” places, seemingly set somewhere behind the Iron Curtain or some vague European location, augmented by the fact that the film itself is multi-lingual, mainly French and German. The environment is ash-laid, grimmy and constantly raining. There is some sort of war going on but the mechanics of this war throughout the whole film are quite vague.
At some point the leaders of nations decide to meet in a bunker underground and the only way to get there seemingly is on a train where the entrance to the bunker is through a porthole in the train. At some point in this journey one of the attendees en route is killed of and replaced by a spy, a woman with bright orange hair who exudes the androgynous feeling of Myléne Farmer or Annie Lennox.
The rest of the film takes place within the bunker, which has a feeling of a clinical and cold Art Deco-style hotel, filled with a staff that are cyborgs/robots that move about their tasks with a toy-like feel. The in-house live band in the lounge play stiff and robotic synthesized jazz while the female room service robot is a rotund figure, her face is caked in powder with a gash of bright red lipstick. Her behavior in the film is one of the more bizarre features in a collection of bizarre features of this film.
The film itself is distinctly continental, having a more mature pacing than what you’d see in an American or British film, opting more for set design, costuming and extensive dialogue rather than grand theatrics or action sequences (although there’s numerous instances of this in the film).
There’s a few regulars from other Bilal films, including Yann Collette, whom one is able to distinctively pick out with his one sunken eye socket.
Let’s leave it at that for now, and perhaps you’re intrigued to watch more: