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The forthcoming dance-based heist movie Happy New Year features, among other Dubai landmarks, the Atlantis hotel, whose very name suggests something not quite of this world. There aren’t too many Indian equivalents. Indian five-star joints have served as backdrops for songs and scenes and pretend homes for uber-rich characters. Where would the movies be without the five-star swimming pool?

Most of the time, Indian movie characters enter hotels either to run out in horror or to gaze upon forbidden flesh (usually belonging to Helen or Bindu). We have made films about places and holidaying couples, but not about their temporary dwellings, the home away from home. Neither Murder at Neemrana or Tragedy at the Taj is the name of an upcoming movie, although The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was actually made in India, as was its sequel. Nobody we know has been suitably moved or inspired by Wes Anderson’s delightful confection The Grand Budapest Hotel—yet. Meanwhile, here are three of the most interesting movie hotels.

Grand Hotel

A bunch of characters, including a dapper gentleman thief, an anguished ballerina, an ailing accountant and a sharp-tongued stenographer, find themselves in a luxurious cage that goes by the name of the Grand Hotel. Made in 1932, and therefore limited in camera movement and set design, the Hollywood classic Edmund Goulding’s Grand Hotel is nevertheless an effective drama about interlocking lives, dying dreams, and the birth of new ones. Greta Garbo’s nervous ballerina is counted as one of her most iconic roles, but our money is on Joan Crawford’s delightfully pragmatic stenographer, who talks as sharply as she types.

Monopol

Hotels are a staple of war films, since they provide a safe refuge from the chaos on the streets. Polish great Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds unfolds for a large part at the Monopol, where a political assassination threatens to disrupt grand dinners and cocktail knock-backs. Monopol, of course, stands in for all of ideologically riven Poland during wartime. Wajda explores all corners, from the bar, where one of the assassins loses his heart to the bartender, to the banquet hall, where a collaborator loses his bearings after having had one too many.

Hotel Earle

Beloved of screenwriters and writers of all persuasions, the Coen brothers’ Barton Fink unfolds in Hotel Earle, one of those retro Los Angeles hotels where “A day is a lifetime" is not just the establishment’s tag line but a threat. Hotel Earle is where John Turturro’s high-minded eponymous East Coast writer lives while trying to bung out the script for a wrestling movie that could seal his future in Hollywood. The only other souls around are Steve Buscemi’s eccentric bellhop and John Goodman’s creepy salesman, the wallpaper keeps peeling off, and a bell rings for eternity. Packed with visual and aural jokes, this sly satire on the writing process in general and Hollywood in particular ranks among the best from the wicked brothers.

This fortnightly column looks at news through the prism of cinema.

Also Read | Nandini’s previous Lounge columns

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