Sunday, 30 March 2014

Preview Screening: The Grand Budapest Hotel

In film, there are two distinct ends of the artistic spectrum. On one end we have realism - an incredibly popular facade to be found in Australian film (e.g. Look Both Ways, Muriel's Wedding). On the other end we have substantial, orchestrated, staged glamour. Extravagant costumes, set pieces and colour schemes. This is where we find Wes AndersonWes Anderson is just about the most stylish director of his generation. He takes notions of 'originality' and 'artistic zeal' under his wing and flies with it. He brought us the feverish dream-like films The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom. Never abandoning his distinct aptitude for creating worlds within worlds, he disappoints us not in his latest creation. 
Every time he allows us to see through his eyes, ours inevitably shine in awe of the new world. We leave the cinema having seen more colours than we ever knew existed.  If it is possible, Anderson has let simply let perfection run awry in his latest masterpiece. 

The story of A Grand Budapest Hotel is no simple one. Set in three different time frames, the film chronicles the adventures a young meagre lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), and how he comes to own the once-renowned hotel. Taken under the strict tutelage of a notable, rather legendary concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), Zero becomes his greatest confidant. When a murder mystery, a stolen priceless Rennaissance painting and an organised jailbreak are thrown into the mix the result is nothing less than pure cinematic delight. 

Destined to be iconic, Anderson has endeavoured to distinguish The Grand Budapest Hotel from any other film on all fronts. The subtle humour is supplied primarily from Gustave H (truly applaudable characterisation) - a distinguished exceedingly hospitable man known for his appetite for older women and inclination to craft and recite verses. 
Ralph Fiennes proves to be a fine facilitator of comedy - a refreshing and rather liberating role for the adroit actor. His ability to entertain will never be questioned again. He took the magnificent script in stride and almost completely ensured tedium never crept on screen.

What I find to be the most laudible aspect of the feature film is its skilful use of its ensemble cast. I am often irritated or at least disappointed with the use of large, notable casts - these films have often been amongst the worst ever made e.g. New Year's Eve, The Other Boleyn Girl and the godawful Movie 43. What comes to mind as a successful example is the final Harry Potter film in which each of its treasured cast members received most sufficient tribute screen time in farewell of the decade-long film series. (Don't get me started on the sad excuse for "film-making" we saw in the cast tributes for the final Twilight film. Thanks for the powerpoint guys). 
Each of The Grand Budapest Hotel's most esteemed supporting cast gave short, sharp, memorable performances. Tilda Swinton was sublime - almost unrecognisable - but truly sublime. Jude Law's velvety voice made for a fine narration, Jason Schwartzman made the most of his silent contribution, Jeff Boldman looked professional as always, Saoirse Ronan showed off her natural Irish accent for once and the lovely Léa Seydoux threw some more pretty French words our way.  

As an added artistic mention mirroring Anderson's intentions for the film, each of the time frames also has its own aspect ratio with the primary timeline in a comical 1.33:1 which is quite simply absent in modern cinema. The cinematography, of course, is made brilliant quite automatically in light of the impeccable set design. The colour palate, the perfect arrangement of every scene is a wonder to marvel at. It is almost like a hearty theatre production - the scale of which is almost unimaginable. Admittedly, Anderson films harbour a different sort of indulgence to the extravagance of say, a Scorsese film. Where Wolf of Wall Street however donned a mask of excess, Anderson alines his decorative assets in a neat pattern that is all too clear.    

Altogether a playful, enjoyable film that takes itself none too seriously - reflected most accurately in its magnificent score by accomplished French film composer Alexandre Desplat. The multi Academy Award-nominated symphonist is known for his work in Argo, Philomena, The King's Speech and the final Harry Potter instalments. His collaborations with Wes Anderson are trademark of his style. The lively, blithe tunes he supplies to the film only add to the film's list of accomplishments.

Director Wes Anderson never simply scatters an array of 'pretty things' across the screen for you to marvel at (apologies Baz Luhrmann i.e. Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet). Every scene is immaculate, somewhat textured, evenly dispersed and simply visual treasures. Carefully calculated, technically perfect The Grand Budapest Hotel has started off the year of film in splendid and admirable fashion.  


The Grand Budapest Hotel opens in Australian and New Zealand cinemas on April 10. It has already been released across numerous countries including UK and the US. 


  1. A great review! Just saw this movie on the weekend, and am still processing it. Unlike anything I've seen

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Wes Anderson is very distinctive. Have you seen Moonrise Kingdom? You'll see some real similarities there and with his other films too.

  2. No but I want to know