Love at The Twilight Motel
Documentary - Humanities
Strong themes, drug use and sexual references
English and English subtitles
Inigo Films official website
Now available to watch on beamafilm
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Welcome to the Twilight Motel, the busiest motel in Miami, where the rooms rent for $25 for the first two hours, the concealed garages have private staircases to the rooms, and the sheets are clean.
Part confessional, part broken love stories, this series of remarkably intimate interviews softly penetrates the darker side of desire, as sex, infidelity and the allure of the fast lane propel these stories. All are seeking some kind of justification for their actions. Mr. R, an affluent businessman recounts a lifetime of lunchtime sexual encounters with secretaries. Mr. B loves his wife "more than life," but has a plethora of excuses for his hooker and drug habit. Beautiful, soft-spoken Rose was a straight "A" student until she fell in with the wrong crowd. Richard feels his destiny in life is to seduce married women.
In the privacy of the motel bedrooms all our protagonists become candidly revealing, dark and funny, transcending the limits of their circumstances, and redeeming themselves by telling their story.
Linda Barnard, The Toronto Star
"Let's talk plainly," observes Cuban gigolo Richard. "Sex. It’s not easy."
Actually, the sex is the easy part in Love at the Twilight Motel, Toronto filmmaker Alison Rose’s fascinating documentary about those who frequent the clandestine no-tell motels on S.W. 8th St. in Miami. It’s living with it that can be hard.
Rose spent three years working on the film, sometimes staying in various motels along the Miami strip, building trust with her subjects. They speak to her with remarkable candor, giving the documentary the air of a confessional at times.
The well-hidden salmon-coloured stucco motel boasts room rentals by the hour, hidden parking spots and plenty of privacy. Mirrored ceilings and tacky sunset murals form the backdrop as the motel’s habitués explain why they are there — from the paunchy 65-year-old businessman who has been enjoying nooners with secretaries for decades, to the plus-sized 40-something prostitute named Gigi, who lists the various requests from her johns with a shudder as she dreams of a white-picket-fence future with a man who treats her with respect.
They all lead double lives — homes and families have no part in the Twilight’s reality. The men who share their thoughts on camera express universal disdain for the women they meet here who end up asking for love or commitment from them.
Everybody has a story — and an excuse — for what they do at the Twilight. Mr. B insists he loves his wife “more than life” but he finds her sexual tastes “very prim and proper.” The motel lets him “get my freak on” with hookers, he explains. What his wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Saddest of all the sad stories is Rose, a soft-spoken, beautiful young woman brimming with intelligence who started making horrendous choices about men and drugs when she was barely in her teens. Lured into prostitution by her boyfriend, she’s lost custody of her child and is selling herself at the Twilight.
“A man has two faces,” Richard explains patiently to the camera as he sips wine from a plastic motel cup.
The brutal honesty of the hourly residents at the Twilight make fidelity seem as fleeting as the memory of an afternoon between the sheets — fine while it lasts, but easily forgotten.
Read the review here
Shannon Ridler, Movie Moxie
I love the opportunity of going into a film blinding on a high recommendation from someone I trust, and that is what prompted me to see Love at the Twilight Motel, and it really paid off. I’m actually rather glad I went in blind to see this documentary centred on portraits of people who all tell their stories of using gated, private-entranced, rent by-the-hour motel rooms in Miami. It’s not something I’d likely go for, but I’m glad I did as this film is a phenomenal example of not only the complexities of human nature but also the sensitivity of skillful film-making.
Following seven people, we are allowed into their respective worlds to we hear each of their stories. From the very open Richard and Gigi to more reserved Sara and Mr. B, they talk openly and honestly about their lives, be they a combination of secrets and dual lived or completely transparent to us and the world. We hear why and what they use the motels for as well as how and if that impacts other, or the ‘regular’ part of their lives. The intimacy of the location allows the perfect setting for these frank portraits to be revealed, there is a safely in the containment of the small rooms which offer comfort and privacy. The stories told offer an unique insight into human nature as well as an outlet for the people involved be it a release, a reveal, a boast on an admission, everyone has something different to share.
Compelling and respectful throughout, one of the most amazing thing about the documentary is that it presented everyone without any judgment. A frank, fascinating exploration of human nature, desire, need, freedom and power.
Leave your judgments at the door and check out Love at the Twilight Motel.
Bob Turnbull, Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind Review
Alison Rose’s “Love At The Twilight Motel” was initially pitched as being about the 20 motels on 8th street in Miami that set their rates based on hourly occupancy. One can easily envision a rogue’s gallery of characters and bizarre situations to be found at these motels that might provide a glimpse into the vast depravity of humankind. Instead, we get seven very intimate stories from seven different patrons of these establishments – all of whom are indeed missing something in their lives. If perhaps they don’t realistically believe they will find love at the motel, every single one of their stories touches on lost loves, hopes for love and love betrayed.
The people are without a doubt the focus of the film, but the motels themselves are worth a few words as well. They aren’t the cockroach infested pits you might have in mind, but come across as extremely clean, freshly painted and quite lovely. They have private garages and back entrances, but otherwise look like reasonably nice places to stay – as long as you don’t need a suitcase stand and don’t mind mirrors on all sides. If you’re looking for a last minute room, though, avoid trying to check in between noon and 2PM on a weekday. During this peak time, according to one of the motel’s guests, many office workers in Miami go to these rooms instead of restaurants. Apparently they are used to dealing with their hunger pangs and look to satisfy other urges. For all that client traffic, though, you rarely see anyone but the cleaning staff use the outdoor hallways that connect the front doors of all the rooms.
The whole film looks gorgeous and is beautifully composed. As the camera occasionally roams those outdoor hallways, the parking lots and even Miami itself, you get a feel for the rich colours of the distinctly Cuban environment. On the inside, those ever present mirrors help make the cramped rooms feel much bigger than they really are, but also allow the characters to be shot from several angles so that we can see all the sides of their double lives. The visuals stay dynamic by occasionally showing only portions of their faces or having audio out of sync with what’s on screen. This only further highlights the duality of their lives. The editing pieces their stories together wonderfully – allowing for long unbroken explanations and well-timed revelations that keeps us involved with all seven characters. Not that these filmic devices are really needed – these people are fascinating all by themselves. Sure they all have problems and I wouldn’t want to be in any of their shoes, but they are smart, engaging, well-spoken and simply natural born story-tellers. They touch upon numerous common themes across their stories: the need to fill the voids in their lives, definitions of fidelity, absent or abusive parents, the effect drugs had on the paths they chose, etc.
One of my favourite people in the film is Gigi, a 46 year old escort who is by her own admission slightly heavier than she used to be. Though pessimistic about sex and her opportunities for finding respect and romance, she still clings to some hope. Her tales of the treatment she received from her father are sad and heartbreaking – particularly when she talks about the mental abuse she suffered from her father. Though still a virgin at 23, he called her a whore and accused her of all kinds of immoral behaviour so much that she eventually just decided to start dressing and acting the part. She reached the point of wishing she would be found murdered in a sleazy hotel room just so that he could see where he had pushed her. She also relates one of the more darkly funny anecdotes of the film regarding a suicide attempt gone awry. It results in a 911 operator asking “You tried to commit suicide by shooting yourself in the foot?”. Of course, Gigi tells it a whole lot better…
There’s also Rose, a beautiful young woman from Haiti who seemed to be on track during her early high school days. She was studying in an enriched program, but never felt like she belonged to the group and eventually fell in with the wrong crowd simply because she was accepted by them. As if to underline that point, she describes how she did ecstasy the first time at the urging of her boyfriend: “I was scared and I thought I might die, but I didn’t want him to stop being my boyfriend”. After a falling out at home, she struck out on her own at 14. Her current job is being a “connector” (attaching people to others that can help them score drugs or sex) and is hoping this may provide her enough distance from her previous issues so that she can get her children back.
Mr. B is, by all accounts, a total jackass. He claims to love his wife more than life itself, but will have sex with pretty much anything that moves (”man was not made to be monogamous”). He’s a rationalizer’s rationalizer. He also happens to be a heroin addict (another of the activities he engages in only at the motel), but considers himself a “functional junkie”. Touching again on the dual lives these people lead, he believes that “man has two faces, one outside the home and one inside”. And yet, he fully recognizes and admits all his double standards, regrets choices he made and knows the consequences of being caught.
I haven’t even mentioned Richard the Cuban refugee massage giver who adores married women or Sara the small town Christian-raised swinger. All the characters have equally compelling stories with many sad moments as they search for something that will fulfill them. “We’re not talking about love here” says Gigi about her encounters at the motel. True enough about her typical business, but love is indeed very much at the root of every single one of these stories.
Jenny Punter, Globe & Mail
At the busy motels that line a notorious strip in Miami’s Little Havana district, rooms are rented by the hour, making them the perfect discreet places for consensual trysts – both professional and personal.
Toronto filmmaker Alison Rose takes us behind closed doors to hear the stories of regular guests in her ironically titled documentary Love at the Twilight Motel, a beautiful looking and sounding meditation on the ache for human connection and the emotional pain so many people try to ease with sex.
Only moderately titillating, the film introduces several male and female characters – most of them middle-aged and many of them Cuban – who, in the first act, give an almost light-hearted “defence” of why they do what they do (the “I love my wife but a man has needs” kind of thing) or describe the elation they felt during early encounters.
But that mood darkens in the second act as Rose digs deeper into her characters’ pasts: A man reveals he is a heroin addict and rents rooms not only for casual sex, but to shoot up so he can be “normal” with his wife; a woman talks about her uptight, small-town upbringing and the discovery early in her marriage that her husband was hooking up with male prostitutes, and so on.
While it could have used a narrative device to propel the mostly talking-head material, Love at the Twilight Motel is a thoughtful film that hits raw nerves.
Read the review here
Janis Cole, Now Magazine
Director Alison Rose penetrates Miami’s hourly rental motel strip to dig into the lives of customers and find out why they’re there.
Her subjects range from Mr. B., a self-professed functional heroin addict on the brink of a nervous breakdown, to Rose, who was persuaded to use hard drugs and have group sex when she was 14.
Their stories are revealing, not just titillating, full of insights about the attractions of the fast lane and the cost of staying there. The subjects let slip revelations about holes in their lives: a country left behind, an absent parent or breach of trust in a marriage.
Well-placed shots of empty motel corridors act as a constant reminder that the exhaustive search for sexual fulfillment and the income transactions at these motels are a sad and lonely venture.
Read the review here
Chandler Levack, eyeweekly.com
The unseemliness of by-the-hour motels is brought to the forefront in Canadian filmmaker Alison E. Rose’s NFB documentary, which gets a local theatrical release after its premiere at Hot Docs last year. Tracking the exploits of seven patrons of the Twilight Motel in Miami’s Little Havana neighbourhood, the film captures candid confessions about drug addiction, prostitution and betrayal, delivered straight to the camera with a vulnerability that is uncomfortably engaging. These dialogues are contrasted with slice-of-life photography featuring the motel’s many maids and groundskeepers as they maintain a building that houses so many transgressions. (Somebody has to clean all those linens.)
Honesty seems to be Rose’s sole policy in this film, and a sensuous intimacy is achieved thanks to Daniel Grant’s cinematography. Certain features are wisely masked with dramatic angles and lush colour — for instance, the confessions of Mr. B., a frequenter of the motel for simple alone time (along with attention to his drug and sex addictions), seem framed to look like a Cubist painting.
The film’s variety of perspectives and personalities — a Christian swinger who cheats on her husband because she loves him, an aging prostitute who dreams of a white picket fence, a male masseur who tempts his clients into having sex with him for money — illustrates the full range of the human condition with little-to-no moralizing. Though the true confessions told within Twilight Motel will surely raise pulses and eyebrows, Rose has the sense to know that less is more.
Read the review here
Robert Bell, Exclaim Magazine
Ironically titled, wholly engrossing and thoroughly depressing, Love at the Twilight Motel may very well be the most engaging, insightful and tragically human doc at this year’s Hot Docs festival, weaving first-person interviews of a confessional nature together into a slowly building criticism of the myth of romantic love. Sex as a functional and almost artificial mode of emotional and, sadly, financial sustainability for those disconnected from traditional social trajectories ties these stories together in a way that’s difficult to shrug off and forget.
Filmed entirely at a motel in Little Havana, where rates are hourly and discretion is assured, the doc features sex trade subjects to the tune of a zoftig, over-the-hill call girl, along with a drug-addicted mother/prostitute. Also featured is an unhappy wife having an affair with a co-worker she isn’t even attracted to, a Cuban gigolo and a cheating, heroin-shooting husband that claims to love his wife, despite the fact that he sticks his unit in anything with a pulse.
Alison Rose handles her subjects without judgment, observing them as they initially claim indifference to their sexual proclivities, which inevitably leads to revelations of abuses, disappointment, antipathy and a generalized inability to trust. Of particular interest is the drug-addicted prostitute, whose tale of compounded insecurities and exploitation is both heartbreaking and nauseating, given how sincerely she appears to want her life, and the life of her child, to have a happy ending.
Cultural anthropologists may find interest in the fortress-like structure of the Miami motel and its private staircases in relation to dominant social concepts of human sexuality and the nuclear family. One can only assume that inherent Judeo-Christian anxieties surrounding all things carnal, aside from the banal act of reproduction, ultimately subjugate and alienate anyone falling outside of the box, forcing self-disgust, embarrassment and an ever-deteriorating image in the face of expectations. (NFB)
Read the review here
Vanessa Farquharson, National Post
t’s a simple shot of a maid pushing her cart into a motel room, and yet it will elicit sharper-than-usual pangs of sympathy amongst viewers, the reason being that this is a maid who works at the Twilight motel in Miami’s Little Havana, where rooms are rented by the hour. We all know what happens in such rooms, but Canadian filmmaker Alison E. Rose wants to know exactly what happens, and who does it.
She’s not interested in graphic depictions of sex, but instead sits down with a handful of regular motel guests and asks thought-provoking questions about why they stay there, how they feel about their behaviour and whether they intend on continuing this lifestyle indefinitely.
We meet a male masseuse with bloodshot eyes who gives happy endings to his female clients, a young stripper originally from Haiti who has lost custody of her children, a Christian woman from Alabama who recently got into swinging, a 65-year-old Cuban man who pops Viagra in order to keep things up and running three times a day and an overweight, middle-aged call girl (call woman?) named Gigi who aspires to leave this trade and find a long-term partner who loves and respects her.
Some of what these characters have to say is slightly predictable – Gigi, à la Pretty Woman, never kisses her clients on the mouth because it’s too intimate – but at times they can be more surprising. Sara, the new convert to swinging, shows up at the motel in a hardly swinging blue Prius, while stripper Rose says many of her clients ask if they can go to church with her immediately after their transaction.
There are funny moments, such as a recollection of a plumber who was unforgettable in bed, as well as sombre scenes, especially when it comes to Gigi, who once tried to commit suicide.
“The majority of us have some kind of pain inside,” she says. “I try to get rid of that pain by doing something I have control over, and it numbs it a bit.”
One of the more popular films at last year’s Hot Docs festival, Twilight succeeds in its refusal to either condone or condemn its subjects’ behaviour, and audiences will appreciate the succinct updates on everyone at the very end. Daniel Grant’s cinematography is exceptionally beautiful as well, capturing all the warm and sensual colours of a dated, but not faded, motel.
The only thing that’s missing is commentary from the employees – the maids, the owner, the concierge – who’ve surely seen a lot of activity in their time, too; it would have given more context to have these voices included.
Still, at a time when it seems nearly every celebrity and politician is cheating on his or her partner, this is a fascinating look at what drives people to have sex when love and romance aren’t in the picture, and why places like the Twilight motel make such a perfect venue.
Read the review here
Brian McKechnie, CityNews
Love at the Twilight Motel is an engaging documentary about the booming hourly motel business along S.W. 8th Street in Miami, Florida that houses 20 of the so-called “sex motels”. While locals know all about the seedy goings-on behind the fences and shrubs that hide the buildings (and its occupants) from the street, Toronto-based director Alison Rose came across Miami’s dirty secret by way of Fidel Castro’s estranged daughter, Alina.
“I was doing research for a political film about the future of Cuba after Castro and was in Miami [speaking with] the Cuban-American community,” Rose says. “[Alina] was driving along S.W. 8th Street and we were passing motels and she said casually, ‘These motels look like ordinary motels but they have mirrors on the ceiling and rent rooms by the hour, and they’re for sex.’ A combination of my nervousness, my agenda, my expectations about a woman who was the daughter of Fidel Castro, and the fact that I had never been with someone who pointed out hourly motels to me…all of those things really startled me and got my attention.”
Rose photographed the buildings before heading home and pitched the idea to the producer she was working with at the time. It didn’t fit in his film but Rose knew it was an important subject, and with the encouragement of a girlfriend who teaches at Ryerson University, she decided to move forward with it on her own.
“I was really interested in learning about them [the motels]. I was curious about the fact that they were central to the city. They were built as tourist motels and became hourly motels when Miami became predominantly Latin American,” she notes.
Even though she was initially nervous and scared, Rose stayed in a motel for weeks at time to observe people coming and going, and also to get to know the staff. This eased her fears and eventually lead to her getting permission from the owners to film inside the motel.
“Having permission to film, I learned painfully, is not the same as having access,” she says. “I tried really hard to ask people for interviews in the motel in the politest possible way and all I succeeded in doing was driving them away. Business declined. I realized that the people who were going to talk were only people who wanted to talk. So instead of asking I started inviting people who had a story to tell to find me. And that’s what worked. I placed ads in different publications and postcards in bars,” she explains.
The people who did speak on-camera vary from a husband who uses the rooms to have sex with prostitutes during his lunch hour to a single man who only sleeps with married women. There’s a person who uses the room to shoot heroin and an overweight escort. Over the course of the two years Rose spent filming she learned that most of the people who frequent the motels “are like you and me.”
“They come from all walks of life. There was an Orthodox Jewish man who came regularly, and eventually propositioned me. I spoke with a guy who lived with his grandmother so he came to the motel with his girlfriend because he couldn’t bring her [home],” she says.
Since filming Love at the Twilight Motel Rose has been informed that all motels in Korea are hourly, and in Japan these types of facilities are called “Japanese Love Hotels”. Closer to home she was told about one on Highway 7 that had a third floor added due to the overwhelming demand for the rooms.
Love at the Twilight Motel recently won the Best Documentary award at the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto and is set to play at The Royal on April 10 and 11, and at Revue Cinema on April 14 and 15. Rose will be doing a Q & A after each screening.
Read the review here
Classical 96.3 FM
In Miami, Florida, in the heart of Little Havana, there’s a street that has 20 hourly motels. The business transacted there is often termed the world’s oldest profession–and possibly for that reason, there is a surprising degree of decorum and ritual on 8th Street. Cars drive into parking lots and their drivers are encouraged to go straight to private rooms away from the prying eyes of the public. The workers at the motels are Cuban-Americans and quite discreet. So are the working women who ply their trade there.
Toronto filmmaker Alison Rose found 8th Street on a visit to Miami and became fascinated by the hidden stories being played out in the motels. The quietly sophisticated, philosophical young director charmed one of the motel owners into letting her film a verité doc on his premises. The result, Love at the Twilight Motel premiered successfully at last year’s Hot Docs, toured internationally and recently garnered the best documentary award at Toronto’s Female Eye Festival. Now, it’s having a limited theatrical run at the Royal Cinema.
Rose’s film eschews violence and action. It’s about character and motivation and storytelling. She finds a remarkable group of sex trade workers who are willing to tell stories for her camera. There’s Sara and Richard and Cadillac but most of all there’s Gigi, whose beauty has faded but who has amazing stories to tell.
Love at the Twilight Motel is not a tabloid doc. Alison Rose looks with a clear eye at the US—its class and race and gender issues as they’re reflected through prostitution. She places poor Hispanics and Africans on the screen—and, of course, whites—and calmly lets them justify their lives, jobs and choices. Rose has created a strong film, filled with characters and scenes, which will resonate with audiences in North America and abroad.
Read the review here.
Steve Veale, Toronto Indie Movie Examiner
First of all, the title – Love at the Twilight Motel – is truly a misnomer. In the words of Tina Turner: “What’s love got to do with it”? There are 20 motels along the SW portion of 8th Street in Miami and almost all of them rent rooms by the hour. The cost for this right to privacy is a mere $25 per hour for the two hours and then $5 per hour after that. In some of the motels, each room has its own private parking area and walkup so customers can go in and out (so to speak) completely unobserved by any other “guest”. The public areas are rarely used. Director Alison Rose interviews various temporary residents of the motel strip. It would be good to think that they are the losers, bottom-feeders, hookers and junkies, the dregs of humanity. But in reality, they are just people. Most of them are walking wounded – shell-shocked by life and rapidly losing the battle.
Mr. R is a 65-years-old married man (“I am very married – except every day from 9 am to 3 pm” according to the aging lothario) who has been carrying on affairs with his secretaries for years along the motel strip.
Then there is Mr. B who professes to love his wife truly and deeply, “but there are things she doesn’t do…and I’ve got to get my freak on.”
Showboat Richard, a Cuban masseuse who delights in seducing married women, confides that “Husbands provide a home and security for women,” he tells the camera, “but they need the heat. I provide that.”
Next we find Sara, thinking about having an affair, when a co-worker tells her to “try the Starlight because it is clean.”
The personable Rose, a striking young woman, who as a teenager allowed six of her boyfriend’s posse gang rape her because he wanted to watch. Since then she has made her living as a hooker and stripper (“I once worked as a waitress but it was horrible,” she said, “so I went back to being a stripper.”)
Read the review here
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