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The Uchoten Hoteru

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Movies: The Uchoten Hoteru Director:  Cast:  Production Co:  Genres: Comedy Runtime:  Country: Japanese Release Date: 2006 
It's New Year's Eve for the Hotel Avanti, and the whole place is in panic mode. There's an award ceremony and countdown party to prepare for, guests to greet, entertainment to organise, a persistent call girl to deter, an escapee duck to find, and more. It is near impossible to sum up this film in a few neat concise paragraphs. The level of writing that has gone into this film is fantastic. Throughout, it really feels like a stage play. The viewer feels intimate with the story and characters, and there is a real warmth and closeness there that is rare to find. Perhaps it the writer's experience with the stage that allows that quality to come through, and as such it is a real strength for the film. This intimacy really helps the viewer to involve themselves in the story, which is incredibly fast-paced and deliciously mischievous in design. The film is really funny, and represents a very full spectrum of humour, from "hmmm" funny to "hah hah", and wry to downright silly, but still manages to be quite understated. This isn't the kind of film that you will make Pepsi come out your nose, but it is really funny all the same, and and there are some hilarious cock-ups that will have you giggling gleefully. The jokes of course wouldn't work without the film's biggest strength: the characters. They are all so enjoyable to watch, as their adventures and mishaps tangle and spiral together, gathering momentum in one huge snowball effect. Some scenes are the culmination of so many threads that it is wonderfully painful to watch it all come together. It is hard not to talk at the TV. To the writer's credit though, the film is often refreshingly unpredictable, and I was impressed to find that this comedy of errors didn't just rely on the same old gags as similarly styled comedies. The film also carries a dramatic message, and while all of the characters are caricatures of sorts, they are much deeper than that, and live and breath to the extent that the viewer finds themselves genuinely caring about what happens to them. There are so many great characters and scenes in this film that it would be a very cynical viewer that couldn't take away something memorable from it. The Uchoten Hotel is a delightful film, expertly written, directed and performed. Even as the film effortlessly straddles zaniness and sophistication, and its many threads entwine together, the viewer can, just as the Hotel Avanti promises, think of the place as their second home.
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