Film: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Tony Revolori, Jude Law, Adrien Brody
The Grand Budapest Hotel is just like the macaroon it so often features – a delightful little pastry that looks deceptively simple but which can be perfectly made only by a true artist.
The artist responsible for this film is Wes Anderson, the director who has been reviled and valued in equal measures for putting style over substance, for hiding blemishes of real life behind arty aesthetics.
All of that is there this time as well. This film is a visual extravaganza – the impossible bubble gum pink hotel with its gilded elevators and white tulips, the regal purple dress that the staff wears and statuesque heiresses (decidedly old) with their innumerable pieces of baggage.
However, in the Grand Budapest Hotel, behind the charm of this façade we see the reality of war and allusions to Nazi Germany.
The film is set in three time zones -- 1985, 1968 and the 1930. With its story-within-a-story premise, it introduces us to one talented actor after another, but it really does belong to Ralph Fiennes.
As the legendary concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, he is beguiling, flamboyant and zany. After escaping from a prison, his chief worry is that he smells. He has poetry for ever occasion and has no compunctions in charming 84-year-olds to the bed. Such is his performance that we forget that the last (and forever before that) time we saw him, he was playing the nose-less Voldemort in Harry Potter films.
He is the demigod of the hotel and actually gives sermons to the staff before supper. When he is not making sure that everything is spick and span in his grand hotel, he is making rich old women happy in the sack.
One of these moneyed ladies (an unidentifiable Tilda Swinton) dies off in suspicious circumstances. When Gustave goes to her schloss to pay his last respects – along with his protégé, the bellboy Zero (Tony Revolori) – all hell breaks loose.
The woman’s son (Adrien Brody – moustached and menacing) and his sinister sidekick (Willem Dafoe) are bent on getting the inheritance and Gustave soon finds himself in the jail on the charge of killing her. High-speed ski chases, whizzing bullets and murders feature prominently in the story of how Gustave finds his way out of the prison and back to his beloved hotel. That, and a secret society of hotel managers.
Other than those earlier mentioned, the cast has such prominent names such as Jude Law, F Murray Abraham, Saoirse Ronan, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton and many more.
The film abounds in dry wit, smart dialogues, an excellent background score which adds to the experience, and picture-perfect sets which remind you of an earlier era. After an overdose of 3D and special effects, it is charming to see miniature models standing in for the real thing.
The film is a screwball comedy in its truest sense. Buoyant and idiosyncratic, opulent and silly, this one is for lovers of cinema that goes beyond Hollywood mainstream.