Friday, 4 September 2015


[Spoiler-Free] 1905, in the Schnalsthal valley (1), South Tyrol (in the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Pietro Neri, a young man of modest origin, arrives from the province of Verona to visit his sister Caterina, who works as a maid at the Grand Hotel Imperial

There, he's told she was fired and disappeared. Pietro becomes a waiter in the luxury albergo to find out what happened. Grand Hotel, the Italian adaptation of the acclaimed Spanish mystery drama Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel, 2011-2013), premiered on tuesday and wednesday on pubcaster Rai 1.

Known internationally as "the Spanish Downton Abbey", Gran Hotel was actually born from the passion of its creators Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira (Gran Reserva) for mystery stories and the work of Agatha Christie. The 39 X 70-minute series was centered on amateur sleuths and star-crossed lovers Julio Olmedo (Yon González) and Alicia Alarcón (Amaia Salamanca). Julio was a provincial young man posing as a waiter at the Grand Hotel of Cantaloa and Alicia the youngest daughter of the owner of the establishment, the merciless Doña Teresa Alarcón (Adriana Ozores). The idyllic luxury of the hotel concealed secrets, lies, intrigue and danger. There was even a gold knife serial killer in the area.

Julio and Alicia were helped by waiter Andrés Cernuda (Llorenç González) and lawyer Maite Ribelles (Megan Montaner) joined them later. Their allies in the police were shrewd detective and forensic expert Inspector Horacio Ayala (Pep Anton Muñoz) and the clueless Agent Hernando (Antonio Reyes), the Spanish Poirot and Hastings. Doña Teresa, the scheming hotel director Don Diego Murquia (Pedro Alonso), the austere head housekeeper Doña Ángela (Concha Velasco), and a powerful invisible enemy were the forces who tried to slow down their search for the truth. Produced by Bambu Producciones, the company of Ramón Campos and Teresa Fernández-Valdés, for Antena 3, the original Grand Hotel was sold to more than 60 territories, including France (groupe M6), the UK (Sky Arts) and the United States.

The Italian version is co-produced by Cattleya (Gomorrah) and Rai Fiction with German company Beta Film, the distributor of Gran Hotel. It is supported by BLS Südtirol-Alto Adige and Provincia autonoma di Bolzano. The 6 X 100-minute episodes, directed by Luca Ribuoli (Don Matteo), were primarily filmed at Castel Wolfsthurn, Racines, in the South Tyrol province of Bolzano in northern Italy. The gorgeous locations highlight the impressive adaptation work by Ribuoli, Isabella Aguilar, and the writing team lead by Peter Exacoustos. Grand Hotel stars Eugenio Franceschini as Pietro Neri and Valentina Bellè as Adele Alibrandi, the Italian Julio and Alicia. Adele is the youngest daughter of Donna Vittoria Alibrandi, the owner of the Grand Hotel Imperial, portrayed by Austrian actress Marion Mitterhammer.

German-speaking cast members of this co-production also include Günter Bubbnik (Rodolfo Von Raben) and Klaus Schindler as Raimondo, the maitre d'hotel and Italian counterpart of Benjamin, played in Gran Hotel by the legendary Manuel de Blas. Amongst the Italian cast, the performances of Eugenio Franceschini, Andrea Bosca (Marco Testa, the local Diego), Flavio Furno (Angelo Cereda) and Emanuela Grimalda (Rosa, the head housekeeper) are particularly commendable. Fans of the original will miss the Ayala/Hernando duo: Inspector Venezia (the excellent Ugo Dighero) is assisted by pathologist Doctor Gadda (Andrea Bruschi) - think Holmes and Watson, and the young Agent Arturo Parini (Pierpaolo Spollon).

Anyway the remake is for now faithful to its source material, except for a notably missing cigarette, some characterization changes, a couple of new storyline elements and a few minor details. Grand Hotel is gloriously lavish and overall very good. It will allow new audiences to discover the creation of Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira. Dario Aita (Jacopo Alibrandi), Barbara Ronchi (Olimpia Alibrandi), Francesca Agostini (maid Anita) and Federica De Cola (Caterina Neri) are in the regular cast too. The enjoyable Downton Abbey-esque theme and the superb music are composed by Nicola Tescari. Giovanni Galasso is the director of photography.

Grand Hotel is exec produced by Matteo De Laurentiis and produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini and Marco Chimenz, Ferdinand Dohna for Beta Film, Gianluca Casagrande, Emanuele Cotumaccio and Federica Rossi for RAI, and Claudia Aloisi. A Mexican adaptation of Gran Hotel, produced by Roberto Gómez Fernández, is in preparation for Televisa. It will take place during the Mexican Revolution. The original Grand Hotel is available on French Region 2 DVD from Koba Films.

(1) Val Senales in Italian. Today, Schnalstal.

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