It’s unlikely that cinephile and independent film favourite Wes Anderson’s latest installment will win over any of his regular detractors – it’s a typically brash and unforgiving Wes Anderson film that is excellent for all the reasons Wes Anderson fans enjoy Wes Anderson films. There was admittedly stretch in his career from The Life Aquatic… to Fantastic Mr. Fox where I doubted the longevity of Anderson’s artifices as they began to border on self-parody and result in uninteresting characters within unbalanced stories, but after his two latest wonderful features the delightful thing about Anderson is the tenacious dedication to his trademarks. It’s completely predictable yet here he has delivered his most effective tinkering with the aesthetics to his compositions that reflect the settings so beautifully. Much like Michel Gondry with Mood Indigo, the auteur is snowballing with imagination and confidence in his craft, bringing a deeper resonance to his trademarks.
In the most perfect and convoluted of conceits for a Wes Anderson movie to enjoy full reign of its quirkyness, the Grand Budapest Hotel is altogether an actual hotel, with a former concierge Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori), whose story about his concierge predecessor Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) choosing him to flee the hotel after Gustave is charged with the murder of one of his many elderly lovers Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) and prove his innocence has inspired a book by an unnamed author (Tom Wilkinson), which a young girl is reading in a cemetery, and is reflectively being told by an older Zero (F. Murray Abraham) to the author as a younger man (Jude Law) in the hotel in 1968 while all this is being depicted via chapters in a film by Wes Anderson through the narration of the author in the present day. I think.
The union between Gustave and Zero is not only the finest master-protege relationship in Anderson’s canon but perhaps his most warmly affecting relationship. He’s assembled perhaps one of the greatest star-studded casts for an ensemble of characters that flourish in this magnificent film to a degree that can only be matched by The Royal Tenenbaums. Willem Dafoe is particularly entertaining as a silent hitman, Ralph Fiennes astounds with his dry witted delivery and the quality to newcomer Revolori’s performance is reminiscent of Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore.
What inevitably becomes so inviting about The Grand Budapest Hotel is that its bittersweet melancholy speaks so vociferously to who I am and involved me wholly in the world of the film. In keeping with my perennial condition in life, I watched it alone at the cinema and it truly made me feel like I’d be a regular visitor at the Grand Budapest Hotel in its 1968 setting where I’d bathe alone, eat alone, sleep alone and read in the lobby alone. I’d even be like the young girl visiting the grave of “The Author”, reading his book alone on the nearby bench. The film is replete with characters that have a pervasive sadness attached to their loneliness, generally through loss, whose each method of coping with their loneliness makes for fascinating observation during both time settings – a pre-war Eastern-Europe during the rise of Fascism and a late 1960s during the heavy influence of Communism – where it was impossible not to feel isolated as individuals and communities alike. The screwball madcap antics merge divinely with luscious mise-en-scene and deadpan humour to form majestic and sublime storytelling that handles these dark movements with delicate care and poignant evocation.