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Blame It on the Bellboy

Photo by Claudette Barius

Bellhop de Jour: Tim Roth in 'Four Rooms'

Robert Rodriguez saves four-headed folly

By Richard von Busack

Great bellboys of the popular media are honored in the four-part collaboration Four Rooms--best described as the tribute genius plays to Love, American Style. In Hollywood's peeling Mon Signor Hotel, a swivel-hipped bellboy named Ted (Tim Roth) connects four stories by four directors. In Quentin Tarantino's segment, a parody of Roald Dahl's story "Man From the South," Ted is reminded of the bellboy in the Who's Quadrophenia and Jerry Lewis' The Bellboy --a lot of referencing in a little episode. Even with its payoff, the Tarantino sequence is a letdown starring the director as a decadent Hollywood wunderkind on a binge with several rented friends.

Alexandre Rockwell's segment about a couple trying to spice up their marriage with some aggressive role-playing has as its salient feature the lewdness of Rockwell's real-life wife Jennifer Beals and little else. Allison Anders' bit about a coven is likable, sexy and pointless, though Lili Taylor gives it a few moments of her valuable time. Only Robert Rodriguez's excruciatingly funny segment--about a pair of naughty kids trashing a hotel room--works all the way from beginning to end.

In Rodriguez's segment, Antonio Banderas is once again the most macho man in the solar system. He impulsively decides to hire Ted as a baby sitter with the unspoken threat that Ted's life will be forfeit if something happens to his brats. Playing against Roth, in the tight close-ups that he dominates like few actors of his time, Banderas just barely holds his temper as the resolute Man with a capital "M," never apologizing, never explaining. Only his eyes give the farce away; the fever of a true paranoid glitters away behind the mask.

Rodriguez sets up the beautifully edited misadventure like a master comedian, hinting at the ultimate disaster to come, distracting us with a superfluous detail to make sure the finale comes as a surprise. If there's a moral to the film, which is about dangerous witches, drunken bravado and a jealous husband, it is best embodied by Banderas: This world is a cruel place for the macho.

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From the Dec. 28, 1995-Jan. 3, 1996 issue of Metro

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