Dir: Terence Gross. UK. 2000. 99mins.

Prod co: Renegade Films. UK dist: FilmFour. Int'l sales: FilmFour International. Prod: Ildiko Kemeny. Exec prod: Robert Buckler. Scr: Gross. DoP: Gyula Pados. Prod des: Alison Dominitz. Ed: Michael Ellis. Mus: Mark Tschanz. Main cast: Toni Collette, Daniel Craig, Katrin Cartlidge, Stephen Tomkinson, Hugh O'Connor, Peter Vaughan.

A highly-anticipated entry in the non-competitive Panorama section at Berlin, Terence Gross' Hotel Splendide is indeed a splendid, if peculiar, production. There is a feeling however that everything has been lavished into the look of the film leaving the screenplay high and dry. Striking camerawork, spectacularly grotesque design and a first-rate cast try hard to breathe life into the story. But the tenuous plot will leave the film not so welcome at the box office.

The hotel of the title is a gothic health farm with a highly unappetising regime of inedible meals and dubious medical treatments which the hotel's geriatric clientele endure in silence. Most seem to have been there since the place was founded as a hotel at the turn of the century.

The natural order is upset by the arrival of Toni Collette who starts cooking food that is actually tasty, thus enraging the dictatorial chef (Daniel Craig) and the greedy hotel management. As a result, the patients begin to recover.

The rather leisurely-paced narrative, from the viewpoint of one of the younger guests, is enlivened by various off-beat romances and a sprinkling of kinky sex. But top marks should go to Alison Dominitz' superbly seedy decor (which recalls Delicatessen) and Mark Tschanz' atmospheric and original score.