“The palace”: Roman Polanski’s strange New Year’s Eve out of competition in Venice


By John

A somewhat blunt and sarcastic comedy, severe towards the characters in the film, but not without a touch of indulgence and sympathy.” Thus, in the director’s notes, the ninety-year-old Roman Polanski, unable to come to the Lido due to “extradition risk”, talks about his «The Palace» passed in Venice out of competition and in theaters from 28 September with 01.

We are on 31 December 1999 at the Palace Hotel, a very luxury hotel located inside an early twentieth century castle in the Swiss mountains. For New Year’s Eve 2000, which will be lived in the shadow of the Millennium bag, of a hypothetical end of the not only digital world, the hotel is preparing to welcome rich and eccentric guests who have always been accustomed to demanding the best. «At eight o’clock some really important people will be having dinner at our tables. The lives of millions of people will depend on the mood in which they leave the next morning. It’s our duty to make sure that their butts don’t atrophy because the chairs are too hard, that they stuff themselves with caviar until they explode and that champagne comes out of their noses and ears. Is that clear?”, he says like a real General Hansueli (Oliver Masucci), manager of the hotel and axis around which everything revolves, he is in fact the head of the large staff of waiters, porters, cooks and receptionists. Everything is thus taken care of and prepared in detail, every request and vice of the illustrious guests must be satisfied to perfection. But the absurdity and degradation that will reach the party and the participants will be completely unpredictable. In this Titanic ready to meet their iceberg, many grotesque characters including an unrecognizable Luca Barbareschi (who is also the producer of the film) in the role of a former porn star, older women distorted by cosmetic surgery (Sydne Rome), a Mickey Rourke decocted in a toupee, a group of ugly Russian thugs worried about securing six suitcases full of money, a Marchioness (Fanny Ardant) with a dog that only eats caviar and, finally, our Fortunato Cerlino in the role of Tonino, assistant of Hansueli.

«For almost half a century I frequented a place in Switzerland where there is a luxury hotel, belonging to the 5* Superior Hotel category, known as Gstaad Palace – Polanski always says in his notes -. I observed the life of this hotel, where an extremely rich and polyglot elite stays, around which the hotel’s proletariat moves. These two worlds are, in their own way, hilarious, sometimes even grotesque. Everything separates them, starting from their political opinions. Only the figure of the hotel manager unites them, who takes care of everyone and tries to please everyone, sometimes actually licking the feet of both customers and subordinates. With diplomatic skill he finds a way out of the most unlikely situations.”