Dir. Wes Anderson
Hotel Chevalier is a 13 minute "prologue" to the 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited. First I should probably point out that I haven't actually seen the longer film. Chevalier was released as a free download on iTunes before Darjeeling was released in theaters, presumably to drum up interest in the film as a whole, but since I find Wes Anderson to be kind of hit-or-miss I never got motivated enough to want to see it. So basically, this is my evaluation of the short film as a standalone short film, although you could probably argue that the short is really meant to be viewed in the context of the entire longer film. (Although in that case, is it really a "short film" unto itself?)
Anyway: Hotel Chevalier features Jason Schwartzman as an American living in a hotel in France. He's laying around watching television when he receives a phone call from a woman (Natalie Portman) announcing her arrival at the hotel. She shows up and starts to look around the room. It becomes evident that the couple hasn't spoken in months, and that things did not end well between them. They begin to have sex, but then walk out onto the room's balcony for a moment instead, and the film ends.
Hotel Chevalier works as a star-driven short on two levels. The first is the director, Wes Anderson. Anderson's films are very stylized and immediately recognizable, usually taking place in settings that are hard to characterize as belonging to a certain era. Chevalier is no different. The feel of the French hotel is timeless, and the only clue to the film's setting in terms of time is the presence of an iPod, which nonetheless feels somewhat anachronistic compared to the rest of the set.
The color palette in Hotel Chevalier is totally centered around yellow, which gives the film an interesting look. When Schwartzman changes from his yellow bathrobe into a dark suit, the effect is jarring. He looks out of place and uncomfortable in the room, reflecting the awkwardness in the encounter between he and Portman. The concentration on yellow also creates a nice contrast at the end, when the characters step outside onto their balcony to see the city evening - everything now is dark blue, including Schwartzman's suit, with the only splashes of yellow being lights on distant buildings and Portman's bathrobe.
Obviously, Hotel Chevalier is also star-driven because it features movie stars. Jason Schwartzman is a reasonably well-known actor, and Natalie Portman is an extremely well-known one. The short generated additional interest when it was released because Portman does her first nude scene in it, which she had previously stated she would not do, and of course everyone wants to see a famous person naked. (But sorry boys, you don't actually see anything too risqué.)
Overall I don't know if I'd say Hotel Chevalier really "works" as a standalone. There is no self-contained storyline: both the past and present of the film are left totally open to interpretation. In that sense it is kind of disappointing because there's no emotional payoff for anything that happens. However, I like it because it gives me a chance to enjoy Wes Anderson's unique aesthetic in 13 minutes, rather than sitting through 2 awful hours of The Life Aquatic.
(I couldn't find the entire film online, but about 8 minutes of it can be viewed here.)