A Dreamy Hotel Scene, Made for YouTube

Monday, February 25, 2008

At the beginning of "The Delay," one of three new short movies from Ritz-Carlton Films, a young woman in a pretty green coat is the last person waiting at baggage claim. The same lonely suitcase circles the carousel. Hers, we assume, is lost. She is not having a good day.

The moment feels like it could have been stripped from a Scarlett Johansson scene in "Lost in Translation." A piano plays mournfully in the background, only to be interrupted by the woman checking her voice mail. "Thanks for returning my CDs," the guy says. "I'm really sorry. About everything. Anyway, I gotta go. I hope you have fun this weekend."

The second message: From her girlfriends, wondering why she's late for the Duncan Sheik concert. The ticket is at the hotel front desk.

The hotel. The first hint of why we are here. The series of shorts from the Chevy Chase luxury hotel chain -- a Marriott International operating company -- takes an innovative stab at art-as-marketing. In partnership with American Express, the movies highlight the aspirational qualities of staying at the Ritz-Carlton, where making people happy, we are meant to believe, is a fine art.

The movies were produced by Anonymous Content, the independent Hollywood studio behind movies such as "Babel" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." The Ritz movies were not up for Oscars yesterday, but that doesn't mean they won't have a premiere -- a private one later this week at AMC Mazza Gallerie 7 -- or that they are badly done. Take them for what they are: art, or something like it, as advertising.

In "The Delay," which can be viewed on Ritz-Carlton's Web site, we learn the woman's name is Sylvie. After a slow cab ride to the hotel late at night, Sylvie walks through the grand but empty lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Marina Del Ray, Calif. A handsome man stands behind the check-in desk. His name tag says Ian. He needs her credit card, and wouldn't you know it, she slides over an American Express gold card. Then Ian hands Sylvie an envelope containing her Duncan Sheik ticket.

"You can throw this out," she says. "I don't need it anymore." She asks Ian to call her when her luggage arrives.

Sylvie tells Ian that Ian was her high school sweetheart's name. "Must have been a lot of broken hearts in high school," Ian says. A little spark, a longing look from Ian, and Sylvie makes her way to her room, where a phone call interrupts her bubble bath -- Ian. Her luggage is there. He needs her ID.

Ian tells Sylvie that he tricked her into coming downstairs. He leads her into a lounge where a man is singing next to the piano. "Is that Duncan?" she says. Ian says, "Yeah."

The credits roll. She watches him sing.

-- Michael S. Rosenwald

© 2008 The Washington Post Company