Monday, 24 April 2017

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Fig 1 - The Grand Budapest Hotel Poster
The Grand Budapest Hotel is the eighth film by director Wes Anderson and follows the escapades of a concierge and a lobby boy during the 1930's. The film begins in the present day with a girl visiting the bust of a renowned author. We then cut to the 1980's in which the author (Tom Wilkinson) recounts his visit to the book's titular hotel twenty years prior. In his youth (played by Jude Law), the author met the hotel's owner and was fortunate enough to discuss how the building came into his possession. The owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), takes the young writer to dinner and begins reciting to him the story of his life, which began in his initial position as the lobby boy. Here, we are transported back to the glory days of the 'GB' when it was run to the impeccably high standards of the hotel's concierge, Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). The young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) is quickly taken under the wing of Gustave, who finds himself the proprietor of a priceless painting left to him by a recently deceased lover. However, upon learning of her grizzly demise, Gustave and Zero quickly realise her relatives are all too aware of the fortunes at stake, leading them to steal what is rightfully theirs and suffer the consequences of their unfortunate framing...

Incidentally, the film features a veritable who's-who of famous faces, including (but not limited to) the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Saoirse Ronan. In fact, I'm perfectly sure there are twice as many names worth listing as the film is utterly fraught with cameos. But of course, the crowning jewel of the film has to be Ralph Fiennes, whose performance demonstrates the decorum and elegance of a truly professional gentleman, even in the most hopeless of situations. Eloquently spoken yet firm-handed when necessary, Fiennes makes every moment count in his turn as the hotel's chief-in-command and gives an unprecedented degree of class to the devoted concierge.

Fig 2 - The Grand Budapest Hotel - Gustave and Zero
Speaking of devotion, the attention to detail in the film's production design is technically flawless. It feels truly on a par with the quirky costumes and props of the Harry Potter universe, in which custom design is visible right down to the engraved olive picks. The fonts and notices adorning the walls adhere to a strict uniformity that tells you everything is done on purpose, either to outline the narrative or draw the eye. The vibrancy of the colour palettes make everything feel alive and exotic, from the saturated red of the interior elevator to the rich purple of the uniforms contrasting with it. The film received Academy Awards for Best Costume Design and Best Hair & Make-Up Design in 2015, all of which are crucial factors in the establishment of the whimsical world in which the film takes place.

I have seen TGBH several times now and, for whatever reason, I am always reluctant to do so. It's not a long film by any means, which is usually the off-putting element for me. Perhaps due to it's 'epic' nature whereby it is presented as a story within a story, the film feels longer than it is, but I didn't find that to be the case this time. As always, once the film got going I was charmed by the deadpan characters and vehemently regimented cinematography Anderson has become known for. If anything, the one element that stood out to me in this viewing was just how 'sweary' the film is. I take no issue with this, as it's a delicately sprinkled layer of 'cuss' words that contrast to great humorous effect alongside the grandiose tone of the film. Without them it might seem almost pompous in it's grandeur, but they aren't used to the point of excess so the film never lowers itself in any way.

Overall I can safely call TGBH my favourite of Anderson's films to date, though his previous works do not fall far behind. It's humorous, dark and jam-packed with eye-candy that warrants repeat viewings to fully appreciate.


Fig. 1 The Grand Budapest Hotel Poster (2014) From: The Grand Budapest Hotel - Directed by: Wes Anderson

Fig. 2 The Grand Budapest Hotel Screenshot (2014) From: The Grand Budapest Hotel - Directed by: Wes Anderson

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