Sunday, March 23, 2014
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Written and directed by Wes Anderson from a story by Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the story of a concierge who asks for the help of a young lobby boy to prove his innocence following the death of an old woman as the woman’s son and his associates try to kill him. Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, the film is set between two world wars in a fictional European country where the story involves theft, love, mischief, and all sorts of things that is expected in a Wes Anderson film. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Matheiu Almaric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, and Bob Balaban. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a rapturous yet exquisite film from Wes Anderson.
Read by a young girl who visit’s the fictional European country of Zubrowka, the film is multi-layered story about the recollections of a young lobby boy who worked for a prestigious hotel in the country that is run by a charming concierge who takes the young boy named Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) as his protégé. After the death of an old lady (Tilda Swinton) whom the concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) had romanced, Gustave is inherited a prized painting much to the dismay of the old lady’s son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) who would have Gustave sent to prison over claims that Gustave killed his mother. With the help of Zero and a young baker named Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), Gustave would do whatever to prove his innocence as the older Zero (F. Murray Abraham) tells this story to a young author (Jude Law) at the hotel his mentor had cherished where the author (Tom Wilkinson) would turn it into a book many years later that the young girl is reading.
Wes Anderson’s screenplay delves into not just themes of nostalgia but also set it into a place in time where things were simpler and had a certain amount of respect where it is largely set in a hotel that was once a place of prestige and elegance where the film is set in three different time periods in 1932, 1968, and 1985 where the ‘68 and ‘85 portions involve the young author reflecting on the story he has created. Much of the narrative is set in 1932 where old Moustafa tells the young author his story where the Grand Budapest Hotel was his home and how he became a part of the world that Gustave has cherished until the death of an old lady would change everything. Especially as her son Dmitri would do whatever to get what he feels he’s supposed to inherit as he would send his henchman J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe) to take care of things.
It’s not just the story that makes the film so engaging but also the characters as Gustave is a man who likes to sleep with old ladies and give them the time of their lives while his greatest love is for the Grand Budapest Hotel in which he ensures that it maintains that sense of respect as the hotel of Zubrowska. It would be something that Gustave would have Zero do as it would be the role that Zero would play where this unique friendship between the two starts to form. Especially as Gustave would help Zero woo Agatha into a romantic relationship where the two would help Gustave get out of jail and evade the authorities and Dmitri where the third act would have the trio not only go back to the hotel but also deal with the sense of a world that is changing that would greatly affect the reputation of the hotel.
Anderson’s direction is definitely what is expected from him in terms of his approach to stylish compositions and attention to detail. Yet, he also manages to take some risks with his direction in not just the compositions he creates but also in the framing devices he goes into. Much of the scenes shot in 1932 is presented in a full-frame 1:33:1 aspect ratio to play into that period of time. Anderson’s direction is definitely controlled with that aspect ratio while adding a sense of looseness into the direction in the way he approaches humor. There’s also moments where Anderson utilizes that framing device to create some dazzling medium shots and wide shots where he creates scenes that is a mixture of stop-motion animation, miniature set designs, and some visual effects to play into that world that is Zubrowka.
The scenes between Mr. Moustafa and the young writer are shot in a 1:85:1 widescreen aspect ratio while the scenes involving the old author and the girl reading the book at present time is shot at a 2:35:1 aspect ratio. The 1968 sequence is once again filled with a lot of spectacular wide shots but also present a world that is filled with a sense of loss and sentimentality where the young writer looks into the history of this once great hotel. Anderson’s mixture of humor, drama, action, and adventure adds to many of the aspects of the film’s visual style not matter what aspect ratio is in where he maintains something that is visually-enriching but also captivating in the way he presents the story and the characters in the film. Overall, Anderson creates a very extravagant yet touching film about a concierge and his protégé trying to prove the former’s innocence in a strange murder plot.
Cinematographer Robert Yeomen does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the vibrant interior lights for the scenes at the hotel to some of the exterior settings in day and night to play up the rich look of the country as it‘s shot on location in Germany. Editor Barney Pilling does excellent work with the editing in creating some stylish cuts for some of the film‘s action and humor while also to help structure the story with its different timelines. Production designer Adam Stockhausen, with art directors Stephen O. Gessler, Gerald Sullivan, and Steve Summergill and set decorator Anna Pinnock, does phenomenal work with the set pieces from the look of the hotel itself as well as the design of the bakery boxes that Agatha works for and other decorative pieces as the art direction is a highlight of the film.
Costume designer Milena Canonero does dazzling work with the costumes from the uniforms of the people at the hotel to the lavish clothes of the guests as well as the dark look of Dmitri and his family/associates. Hair and makeup supervisor Heike Merker does brilliant work with the look of the Madame D. character in the way she looks as well as in some of the prosthetic makeup some of the other characters wear including the Mexico birthmark on Agatha‘s face. Visual effects supervisors Andrea Block, Christian Haas, and Gabriel Sanchez do fantastic work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects while getting additional help from miniatures designer Frank Schegel and stop-motion animator Andy Biddle to play into the look of the hotel and some of its features.
Sound editor Wayne Lemmer does superb work with the sound to play into the atmosphere of the hotel as well as the prison and other locations in the film. The film’s music by Alexandre Desplat is just awesome for its mixture of Eastern European-based string music that is dominated by the balalaika that is mixed with some orchestral flourishes as it‘s definitely of Desplat‘s best scores while music supervisor Randall Poster brings in a few pieces of the times to add to the tone of the film.
The casting by Douglas Aibel and Jina Jay is just incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from Larry Pine as the Grand Budapest Hotel manager, Jella Niemann as the girl reading the book the author write, Giselda Voldi as Serge’s sister, and as members of a secret society of concierges that Gustave is in, Bob Balaban, Wallace Wolodarsky, Fisher Stevens, and Waris Ahluwalia. Other notable small roles include Lea Seydoux as a housemaid of Madame D., Mathieu Almaric as a servant of Madame D. who would provide crucial information for Gustave, Tom Wilkinson as the older author in the 1980s scene, Owen Wilson as a concierge who fills in for Gustave, Jason Schwartzman as the hotel concierge in the 1968 sequence, and Bill Murray in a very funny performance as a fellow concierge in M. Ivan who is also a member of the secret society of concierges.
Tilda Swinton is wonderful as the aging Madame D. who has cherished Gustave’s kindness as she would leave him a prestigious painting. Harvey Keitel is terrific as the prisoner Ludwig that Gustave would meet as they help each other break out of prison. Jeff Goldblum is superb as the hotel overseer Deputy Kovacs who is also Madame D.’s executor while Edward Norton is excellent as the army inspector Henckels who tries to do what is right while being a friend of Gustave. F. Murray Abraham is amazing as the older Zero Moustafa as a man who displays such grace in his role as a man reflecting on his past while Jude Law is great as the young author who listens to Zero’s story and reflects on a lost place in time.
Adrien Brody is fantastic as the very devilish son of Madame D. in Dmitri who is angry over what Gustave is getting while Willem Dafoe is brilliant as the very chilling J.G. Jopling who seems to have no problem in killing people as it’s definitely a role fitting for Dafoe. Saoirse Ronan is remarkable as the very brave Agatha whose talent for designing elaborate sweets is matched by her ability to do dangerous things in order to help Gustave and Zero. Tony Revolori is marvelous as the young Zero Moustafa as a young man trying to find his place in this hotel while helping Gustave to prove his innocence as it’s a major breakthrough for the young actor who manages to have some great moments with Fiennes. Finally, there’s Ralph Fiennes in a performance for the ages as Gustave as it’s one that is so full of charm where Fiennes really showcases his sense of wit where he is always funny from start to finish while proving to be a man who will fight for the people he cares for.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a magnificent film from Wes Anderson. Armed with a glorious ensemble cast led by Ralph Fiennes as well as dazzling technical work and a fun score by Alexandre Desplat. The film is definitely one of Anderson’s finest in terms of its technical brilliance as well as an engaging story about friendship and finding a home in a troubled world. In the end, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a spectacular film from Wes Anderson.
Wes Anderson Films: Bottle Rocket - Rushmore - The Royal Tenenbaums - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Hotel Chevalier - The Darjeeling Limited - Fantastic Mr. Fox - Moonrise Kingdom - Castello Cavalcanti - Isle of Dogs The Auteurs #8: Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson Soundtracks: Bottle Rocket - Rushmore - The Royal Tenenbaums - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Seu Jorge-The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions - The Darjeeling Limited - Fantastic Mr. Fox - (Moonrise Kingdom) - (The Grand Budapest Hotel) - (Isle of Dogs)
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