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 Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel   Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:27 pm

Over the course of 7 films, director Wes Anderson has developed a unique and inimitable style of film making, from the minute one of his films starts, you can tell right away Anderson directed it. With the opening credits done in a quirky presentation, the sets are full of detail and colour, the characters are usually oddballs and even the camera work is done with such symmetrical precision, it would have make Stanley Kubrick take notes. His first three films, Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), were all set in America. But since then, Anderson has been all over the world, he went to Italy to make The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), he toured India by train with The Darjeeling Limited (2007), then he dived into stop-motion animation for his quirky, old-fashioned take of Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), which he envisioned the English countryside in a sun-snogged, autumnal orange hue. His last film, Moonrise Kingdom (2012) had Anderson return to America, for his pre-teen romance, which was sweet and quite funny with a good ensemble cast too. For his 8th film, Anderson is back in mainland Europe, creating a world inspired by the works of Austrian playwright and novelist Stefan Zweig, whose novels Beware of Pity (1939) and The Post Office Girl (published posthumously in 1982)) bore the template for Anderson's new caper, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is extremely stylish, very thoughtfully put together and full of quirky and funny moments throughout.

In 1986, a novelist (Tom Wilkinson) recalls a time in 1968, when as a young writer (Jude Law) he was staying at the once glamourous Grand Budapest Hotel in the European Alpine resort of Zubrowka, the hotel is now a former shadow of itself and in disrepair. But, the writer meets a man called Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who invites the writer to join him at dinner and explains that he actually owns the hotel. Moustafa tells how when he was a teenager (Tony Revolori) back in 1932, he was employed as the Lobby Boy at the Grand Budapest Hotel, and he was working under the guidance of the hotel's concierge Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), who is charming and dashing as they come. Women flock to the hotel to enjoy the "exceptional service" of Gustave H. One of them is Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), who is found dead in mysterious circumstances a month after leaving the hotel. Gustave H. and Zero travel to Madame D.'s wake to pay respects. There's a shock when will executor Deputy Walter Kovas (Jeff Goldblum) reveals that Madame D. has left Gustave H. a rare painting called Boy with Apple. Madame D.'s son Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Adrien Brody) is disgusted, even more so when he finds out that Gustave took the painting. Gustave is later arrested by Inspector Henckels (Edward Norton) and placed in jail. Gustave plans an escape, but Dmitri has vicious assassin J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe) go off to kill Gustave, who has managed to escape thanks to help by Zero and his new girlfriend Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).

Anderson revealed that as a child he grew up with the Pink Panther films, and their influence is seen here, The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson's tribute not only to the writings of Stefan Zweig, but also the films of Blake Edwards. With their fast moving action, farcical misunderstandings and usually large casts, this film is the same. It's a fast moving film, with lots of editing cuts, quickfire visual gags and a lot of visual mis-en-scene, a second viewing might be required to pick up on the little bits that you missed first time around. It's also a comment on the pre and post-war life in Eastern Europe, all bright and colourful, then after the war, in the 1960's, the Iron Curtain has fallen, now everything is drab and lifeless and dirty. It's a very precise film, and it has visual effects done without a computer. Anderson is one of a few modern filmmakers, who can get away with making old-fashioned films like this, with no-CGI and on 35mm film rather than digital. But his films have always managed to be successful, beautiful to look at without falling into the pitfalls of being self-indulgent, as Anderson weaves an old-fashioned story, beautifully suited to his style of filmmaking, and this manages to be one of Anderson's most compelling and fun films in a long time, it's funny, quirky and has very colourful characters, in all, it has all the right ingredients, and here, he gets away with a European country, where everyone has English, American and Irish accents, it shouldn't work, but in Anderson's hands, it does.

Anderson has a well selected team for each film, most of them have been with him since his debut with Bottle Rocket, mainly cinematographer Robert Yeoman, who with this film faced a most formidable challenge. The film is set in 3 timelines, and each timeline would be represented by a different aspect ratio. 1932 is shot in 1.33:1, as films then were filmed in that ratio, widescreen was not invented. 1968 in 2.35:1 and 1986 in 1.85:1. While this sounds quite odd, it works and somehow, it helps to enhance the story, and not many films these days are filmed in 1.33:1, (aside from The Artist (2011)), but it's a unique, brave and clever way to do the film. The production design is by Adam Stockhausen, who worked with Anderson on The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom, and it's a tour-de-force in style and substance, the centrepiece being the lobby and atrium of The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was filmed in an abandoned department store called Görlitzer Warenhaus, in the town of Görlitz on the Germany/Poland border, and one of the last buildings of it's kind that wasn't destroyed by the Allied or Soviet forces during the war. It's a very large and detailed set, and the town of Görlitz was used throughout the filming and it has an Eastern-European flavour which adds to the films tone. Plus, composer Alexandre Desplat, who worked with Anderson on Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom creates a rich, characteristic score mixing Russian folk music with adaptations of works by composers Öse Schuppel, Siegfried Behrend, and Vitaly Gnutov. They add a European flavour to this film, and act like a character in a way.

For the cast, Anderson got together a lot of old friends, and a few new faces to his team, including Ralph Fiennes as the devilishly charming Gustave H. Fiennes shows a little scene knack for comedy in this film, and his Gustave H. is one part Peter Sellers and one part Terry-Thomas, a caddish rogue who is smart, sophisticated and intelligent, and Fiennes relishes in the part, having a lot of fun. Relative newcomer Tony Revolori makes a good pupil as Zero Moustafa, and he manages to be part of the glue holding the film together, and also has a quick love affair with Saorse Ronan's Agatha, which comes out beautiful on film, and it's Zero's story, told by the great F. Murray Abraham, (who we don't see much of in films these days.) The rest of the film has cameos which span the film, like Adrien Brody's Dmitri, the nasty, greedy heir of Madame D. who wants the painting, Willem Dafoe's incarnation of evil as J.G. Jopling, Edward Norton's local policeman Inspector Henckels and Jeff Goldblum's Deputy Walter Kovacs. Other cameos last a mere few minutes, like Tilda Swinton's Madame D. Mathieu Amalric as Serge X, who aids Gustave, Harvey Keitel as prisoner Ludwig, Jude Law as the Young Writer who hears the story. Some of the cameos literally last seconds, including Bill Murray as M. Ivan, (sporting a magnificent moustache Jimmy Edwards would have been proud of), Léa Seydoux as maid Clotilde, Jason Schwartzman as M. Jean, Owen Wilson as M. Chuck, Lucas Hedges as a Gas Station attendant, Waris Ahluwalia as M. Dino, Wally Wolodarsky as M. Georges, Fisher Stevens as M. Robin with Bob Balaban as M. Martin and Tom Wilkinson as The Author. Some are regulars to Wes Anderson's world, others are new to his world.





Only Wes Anderson could create a sumptuous and visually stunning film like this, and the fact he's been able to make films like this for so long and make each one of them feel fresh and original is an achievement in itself, most directors who try that get accused of being repetitive and playing it safe, but Anderson is able to adapt his visual style to any story he puts on screen, and that in itself is an achievement. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of his best films, working with a budget as big as he was given for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson puts his story and characters first, then focuses on the intricate visual details, and it's done with such military precision too. With the camera movements simply flowing, and it has Anderson's biggest cast to date, it is an ensemble piece, referencing another comedy ensemble, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), with had a good cast at it's core scattered with a few cameos from comedians and actors of the time, all going after one big MacGuffin of a case of money, here everyone wants the painting, which is the MacGuffin which drive the film's plot along nicely. It'll be interesting to see how Anderson can top the antics and epic scope of this one, he might just head in the opposite direction, and do something simple and down-to-earth, like Moonrise Kingdom was, or he might head in the same direction and give us another funny and visually stunning epic like this, either way, it'll be well worth seeing.
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Peregrin Took
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PostSubject: Re: Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel   Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:12 am

Wes Anderson is a unique voice in American cinema.
I have all of his films, and even after repeated viewings I never tire of them.
It's great to see that he is beginning to be appreciated by a wider audience.
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