The arrival of a gay couple at a retro-’70s Parisian hotel sparks a series of absurd anecdotal actions involving homophobia, racism, misogyny, terrorist threats, and political manipulations, in artist-filmmaker Neïl Beloufa’s clever, hyper-stylized critique of today’s xenophobic ideologies.
Acclaimed artist-filmmaker Neïl Beloufa is known for his ingenious sculptural set pieces and mock mises en scène that refract cultural assumptions via inventive ricochet. His second feature, Occidental, is terrifically deceptive and smart. It recasts today's mainstream ideologies and fears as dramatic triggers within a narrative hothouse composed of fake scenery, a loose storyline that satirically reflects the uneasy context of our contemporary world, and evocations of multiple genres: neo-noir, comedy of manners, thriller, romance.
The film takes place almost entirely within Hotel Occidental — a retro, '70s-inflected set built by Beloufa in his artist studio — which functions as a geopolitical microcosm while a mass demonstration rages in the streets of Paris. Inside the hotel, the atmosphere is thick with intrigue and eroticism since the arrival of mysterious, flirty, and handsome "Italian" Giorgio (played by Paul Hamy from João Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist), who requests the bridal suite for himself and his male companion. The receptionist may be smitten, but the hotel manager instantly suspects their attitude and alerts the police, despite there being no evidence of any wrongdoing. The cops and hotel staff soon find themselves confronted by a series of absurd anecdotal actions involving homophobia, racism, misogyny, terrorist threats, and political manipulations.
Wilfully claustrophobic with its boxy aspect ratio, and coloured in high Godardian artifice, Occidental is hyper-stylized, clever, and comical, parsing the complexity of present-day morality using the likes of Coca-Cola (?) and a hidden love story in order to reflect upon French life, politics, and pervasive xenophobia.