Thursday, May 09, 2013

Hot Docs Review: The Women and the Passenger


Four chambermaids tell their personal stories of love, marriage, relationships and life in The Women and the Passenger. They work at El Passajero, a motel that rents rooms by the hour, and refer to the ever changing guests as passengers. The housekeeping staff is constantly busy at El Passajero as checkout time is more frequent than the noon departure time one would expect at a normal hotel. Each employee tells her stories regarding the numerous guest at the motel in a straight forward manner that is free of titillation or judgment of the guests that come to the hotel.

The film follows the women through their workday and provides insight into their personal lives. Elisabeth recounts her split with her husband as she explores the various positions of the sex chair in the room that she's cleaning. Carina discusses the fact that her husband, the popular kid in the neighbourhood when they met, is younger than her. Maria's been married for 33 years and seems to have the most stable relationship amongst the four. Patricia divulges that she is self-conscious when she has sex with her husband because her kids sleep in the room next door.

Directors Patricia Correa and Valentina Mac-Pherson use several appealing shooting techniques in the film. The opening sequence of the women entering the change room to don their uniforms is done in a long take without sound. The filmmakers use extreme close ups to showcase their faces, lockers, uniforms and various body parts. The shots where the women encounter hotel guest to bring them room service or other items is shot at a low angle from the far length of the hallway. We often hear the conversations from the women’s encounters with guest, but never see the patrons. However, we do hear the regular sound of sexual activity emanating throughout the hotel.

The film offers up a detailed look at several of the mundane aspects of the maids’ routine. For example we watch as the women clean mirrors, change the sheets, fluff pillows, find odd left behind trinket, and clean up illicit substances in the rooms. All of this is conducted under the neon red, green, purple and pink lights of El Passajero.

The Women and the Passenger is an unconventional film that answers many of the questions that people often have when visiting a dodgy motels. Fortunately, the film avoids sensationalizing some of the seedier aspects of motel life. A well done documentary, The Women and the Passenger may cause some to think differently when staying overnight at a motel.

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