Before you see Wes Anderson’s new feature film The Darjeeling Limited (and you should; I second Lisa Schwarzbaum’s B+ review in this week’s EW), I’d recommend downloading Anderson’s short “Hotel Chevalier” from iTunes. (It’s free; it contains some NSFW language and sexuality.) The 13-minute film, which serves as a prologue to Darjeeling, is about an American named Jack (Jason Schwartzman, left), holing up in a fancy Paris hotel, who has an unexpected reunion with an estranged girlfriend (Natalie Portman, right). Shot two years ago, before screenwriters Anderson, Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola developed the character into one of the three brothers on Darjeeling‘s rail journey across India, “Chevalier” sees Anderson working in his customary jewel-box/dollhouse mode, but the form and length really suit each other here. (Anderson’s arcane taste in ’60s British Invasion pop tunes is present as well, in the repeated use of Peter Sarstedt’s 1969 tune “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely),” a Donovan-lite song that began to grate on me with repetition but which I now can’t dislodge from my brain.) “Chevalier” is an exquisite short story where we learn not much but exactly enough about these two characters; plus, there are several allusions in Darjeeling to elements of “Chevalier” that you won’t catch if you haven’t already seen the short.
Oh, by the way: there’s been a lot of drooling fanboy talk that Portman finally gets naked in “Chevalier.” Well, not quite. Like the film, she reveals not much, just enough.