“I didn’t say you could come here”
An unplanned prologue (to his producers) accompanying Wes Anderson‘s fifth film The Darjeeling Limited, Hotel Chevalier tells the story of Jack Whitman’s (Jason Schwartzman) complicated love. You could watch the feature without it and not lose much, but including it in the experience definitely adds something special like every hidden detail inside Anderson’s work. Besides seeing the context surrounding the bottle of perfume Jack finds in his suitcase and understand what Natalie Portman is doing in a blink and you’ll miss her cameo, however, the short also delivers its own emotionally resonant trajectory as a thematic companion to what’s obviously the director’s most personal piece.
I say this because there is a deep-rooted sadness underlying the comedy of both Hotel Chevalier and Darjeeling whether about the crossroads of love or the melancholic nature of dealing with death. It helps that Schwartzman retains a sad-sack demeanor throughout as though a huge weight sits heavily on his shoulders and chest. We don’t quite know the full circumstances surrounding his Jack’s self exile in Paris for what’s alluded to as almost a year, but we can infer a lot of it has to do with his failed relationship with his ex (Portman). He hasn’t quite gotten over her yet, but his indifference to her emotional wellbeing where it concerns him being borderline angry shows he’s almost there.
What we witness is an authentic look at love amidst the stagy art direction we’ve come to admire about Anderson’s work. Tiny details like a custom designed chocolate wrapper, embroidered bathrobe, and numerous trinkets to help express the length of time Jack’s been in the room give the scene color if not substance. This is okay though because the dialogue adds enough of that itself. It speaks to love’s complexities, it’s inability to be erased, and it’s all or nothing construction. There is nothing joyous about the rendezvous depicted—just a modicum of compassionate concern and a wealth of unresolved history.
Performances and dialogue don’t often find themselves overshadowing Anderson’s aesthetic, but both do so here. He sets up his character’s motivations and introduces the depressiveness that will carry on through he and his brothers in Darjeeling. They’ve all let their personal struggles rule them for too long with sexual, environmental, and painful escapes proving anything but larger prisons to inhabit. Until Jack can confront his turmoil with the siblings who’re experiencing many of the same things, he’ll be caught in an endless loop of regret and disappointment. Seeing his ex and using her as she has him is his first kick in the pants to start and therefore a perfect beginning to his spiritual journey of the heart.