Not bad, not great
Todd Kendall Urban | Chicago, IL | 12/06/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you happen to be a fan of cinematographer Christopher Doyle, this film may appeal to you. Falling both chronologically and aesthetically between Doyle's work on Temptress Moon (1996) and First Love: the Litter on the Breeze (1997), Motel Cactus is filled with plenty of his trademark handheld camera moves and experimental visual pyrotechnics.
The film is made up of four episodes that take place in the same room at a Korean love hotel. Although there is no real plot to speak of-not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself (see the films of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai)-we're never given a reason to care about the characters contained within. Where Wong Kar Wai uses voiceovers to pull us into his character's endless doubts and longings, director Ki-Yong Park gives us nothing but the sound of rain alongside a barely audible, unmemorable soundtrack.
Of the four episodes, the last two seemed to work the best-combining Doyle's jazz-like visual improvisations with characters who appeared passionate about their romantic struggles. However, before tensions are allowed to explode onscreen and pick up the languid pace, they slip back into the murky shadows, ultimately leaving the viewer unsatisfied and the characterizations somewhat stillborn.
I'd like to give this film four stars for its' cinematography, but in the end its' lack of strong direction earns it only two. Rather than spending money purchasing Motel Cactus, I'd recommend seeking out Christopher Doyle's directorial debut Away With Words (1999) or Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe (2003). As for my copy of Motel Cactus, I may pull it out again later and watch it with the sound turned down . . . a little John Coltrane in the background . . ."