In Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1991 film “Barton Fink,” John Turturro plays the title character, a playwright trying his luck in Hollywood. In addition to Fink, Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), and Chet the Bellhop (Steve Buscemi), one of the most memorable characters in the film is the hotel. Dim, dusty, and quiet, the hotel’s almost empty atmosphere contributes in wrapping dramatic tension around Fink. Similar imagery appears in Vincent Di Meglio’s short film “El Elegante.” El Elegante, or The Elegant, is the name of a hotel where the two main characters, Annabelle (Darla Gordon) and Roberto (James Rasmussen), spend New Year’s Eve.
The film begins with Annabelle lugging a suitcase down a newspaper-littered hall. She enters room 53 and finds Roberto sitting on the bed. A quick survey of the room reveals an array of strange objects including a stuffed squirrel, a cauldron-vase, and a box containing some kind of creature. There is very little dialogue in Meglio’s film and ninety-nine percent of the action occurs in the room. Annabelle does most if not all of the talking. Though her line of questioning reveals that Roberto probably has no family, and Annabelle volunteers that she’s from France and thinks fondly of her father, the viewer doesn’t learn exactly how Annabelle knows Roberto or under what circumstances she visits him.
The film’s point, however, isn’t why either of them is in that hotel room that particular night—they just are. Annabelle and Roberto are consumed by the here-and-now. He attentively listens to her, and he performs magic tricks. In their idiosyncratic surroundings, Annabelle and Roberto exchange names, pieces of toffee, share imaginary champagne and a slow-dance. There’s no fiery climax in Meglio’s film, but if you enjoy the “Barton Fink” feel, “El Elegante” is a treat.