When I first moved to Northampton a couple of decades ago, my partner at the time took a job as a chambermaid at a local hotel. I can’t recall now exactly how long it lasted, but I know it wasn’t long — the hours, the amount of labor involved, the indifference (or worse) of guests all made it too draining to maintain. In Lila Avilés’s debut feature The Chambermaid, coming this week to the Academy of Music in Northampton, that often numbing work is taken out of the pre-dawn hallways and laundry rooms and put center stage.
Eve (Gabriela Cartol) works as a chambermaid in a deluxe Mexico City hotel. Her day begins at 4 a.m., and in between cleaning bathrooms and making beds she tends to the desires of the entitled guests, caring for the children of those wealthy families while her hours prevent her from being with her own. She hopes that a promotion will help raise her standard of living, and begins an adult education program offered through the hotel.
Of course, the hopes and dreams of the working class are rarely the first concern of those who employ the dreamers. Avilés’s film gives those dreams their due, even if Eve’s own don’t pan out exactly as she hopes. Quietly spare and determinedly realistic, The Chambermaid was inspired by French artist Sophie Calle’s project The Hotel, which found Calle taking a chambermaid job to photograph objects left behind by hotel guests. Eve does something similar, except she is her own camera, subject, darkroom, and audience — in the end, it will be her own vision that changes her direction.
The Chambermaid, 10/19, 7 p.m., Academy of Music, 274 Main St., Northampton
Also this week: Amherst Cinema wraps up its look back at the Koker Trilogy of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami with two screenings of the 1994 film Through the Olive Trees. Showing this Sunday and Wednesday in a new 2K restoration from Janus Films, this final installment of the trilogy references Kiarostami’s And Life Goes On — the film that preceded it — in a masterfully meta take on the magic of storytelling.
In this film, the director brings us back to the production of And Life Goes On to give us a behind-the-scenes story of romantic complications on the set. There, one of his actors longs, in real life, for the woman who is cast as his wife in the film. The problem is that when the cameras aren’t rolling the woman wants nothing to do with the young man. Turmoil both creative and emotional ensues, leaving the director caught between worlds. Gently comic and genuinely tender, this last film of the Koker Trilogy is also a loving look at the magic of filmmaking, and the sometimes hazy line between cinema and the world around it.
Shown with that feature is Two Solutions for One Problem, a 1975 short film from Kiarostami that, like the later Where is the Friend’s House? focuses on two schoolboys and their fractured relationship. The problem of the title is that Dara has torn a notebook borrowed from friend Nader. The two solutions — and the divergent futures they lead to — hinge on whether or not Dara takes responsibility for the accident.
Through the Olive Trees, 10/20 at 2 p.m., 10/23 at 7 p.m., Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St., Amherst
Like him or not, there is no denying that Quentin Tarantino has left a giant mark on the filmmaking world. For almost three decades now — his breakthrough Reservoir Dogs was released 27 years ago this month — his talky and blood-soaked films, peppered with pop culture birdshot, have blazed a trail that many (most with much less style) have followed. Now the director is pausing to look back for a one-night-only event that turns the lens on his own work. QT8: The First Eight is an overview of Tarantino’s first eight films, narrated by the actors and collaborators who worked with him to create the style that has proved so influential.
QT8: The First Eight, 10/21, 7 p.m., various Cinemark Theaters
Jack Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.