Monday, 17 March 2014

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Year: 2014
Director: Wes Anderson
Screenplay: Wes Anderson
Starring:  Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori

Synopsis is here

It's probably been said before, but if you've seen Wes Anderson's Rushmore and got nothing out of it, then the later films of this particular auteur may be almost impenetrable.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different. It's a kaleidoscope of intricacies and references. If a viewer not well versed in Anderson's quirks then I can easily imagine them glaring blankly at the slightly indulgent nods to art, music and readings. You're certainly in trouble if you don't enjoy dead pan.

Lord knows how I became a fan of Wes. Then again, like Eli Cash, I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum. The Grand Budapest Hotel doesn't reach the emotional heights I found with that particular movie (Wes’ movies often feel like this, Google Eli Cash if you haven’t a clue about what I’m talking about) but for this blogger The Grand Budapest Hotel is a somewhat return to form since the underwhelming Moonrise Kingdom. Yet I say this knowing that, in typical Anderson form, both films will require more viewings to unpack.

This latest entry, much like what we've previously witnessed, is a film brimmed full of mechanics and poise that will drive detractors mad. Yet like its earlier predecessors, The Grand Budapest brings with it that earnest sense of melancholy that Anderson can often provide. While The Darjeeling Litmited  tried to turn an eye on a vastly different culture (and felt cumbersome), The Grand Budapest is a look to the past which is tinged with a light sadness rings true, despite being placed in such an immensely artificial world.
In a fine comic performance; Ralph Fiennes plays M. Gustave, an extraordinarily dapper gent from a bygone time. In one of his wittiest roles, Fiennes delivers an immensely charming portrayal. While he might bed old dears, this is a gentleman who has one foot in a past of traditions that many would love to regain. His lingering desire for meticulous customer service and near sickening politeness is one of the highlights of the film. It’s delightful to see a film in which the protagonist tries (and sometimes succeeds) using an element of refinement.

You expect something so mannered by Anderson. It’s a candid caper where raucous laughter is substituted with muffled polite chuckles. Warmly measured moments swing rapidly to outrageously cartoonish sequences, all to the beat of a metronome.

This is the sort of film where Tilda Swindon plays a 84 year old dear and Willem Defoe gets to remind us how well is his at unnerving viewers, with an ape like gaze which is far from voicing polar bear puppets for frozen food companies. Yet this is also a film that can break ones heart with a snap of its fingers. A boy can relive the horrors of war in one sharp monologue or a pained expression on a middle aged man tells a thousand stories. The film is book ended by sequences which seem odd, yet when a step is taken back, we released that's it's not just about Wes pulling a yarn but empathising that stories whatever they be should be told and kept close in an ever changing world that is falling in the hands of youth. We must share and tell our tales and be polite when we do so.