Tuesday, July 15, 2014

FILM REVIEW ~ The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson, well, you either like him of loath him ,right? Certainly I've been in the latter camp ever since I saw The Royal Tenenbaums. Too knowingly quirky,too contrived and mannered, telegraphing his often rather obvious, if not lame, comic conceits several moments before they happen, then flogging them to death, plus all the Hollywood elite falling over themselves to do a humble short cameo for dear old Wes.

That was until The Grand Budapest Hotel, which for some reason avoids the pitfalls of stilted artifice and archness present in his previous movies. It's genuinely off beat, but a pure delight from start to finish. Yes, it does have a cast list to die for, with all Wes's usual collaborators putting in an often brief appearence. Two things have helped transform my appreciation of his work. First, its the script, starting from the stories of Stephan Zweig, he concocts a ludicrous confection, light, frothy and insubstantial, but it has razor sharp dialogue and moments of quick witted light footedness. Its edited very well, with a fluent speed and an unflagging romping pace. He allows just enough time for the gags and then moves on, with none of Wes's usual strangling of every last ounce of humour from a situation until its dead. Second, he has found in Raplh Fiennes a really great comic actor to base his film around. His character Gustav H, is a fantastic cartoon creation, actorly and camp, but with superbly well crafted and judged comic timing. Without Fiennes this film may well have fallen into being the standard sniggering conceit of a Wes Anderson movie.

Gustav H is a control freak, the servant/lover of all his blonde female guests. He is there purely to serve their every need, and I mean every need. He runs the hotel like clock work, as he brings on his latest ingenue Zero as Lobby Boy. With the death of an elderly Countess, he finds himself bequeathed a highly valueable painting, and the vengence of her family knows know legal bounds to get it back. Its a wonderful farce, inhabited with the spirit and tone of a boy's own adventure.

 Taking place on the edge of conflict, there is a framing poignancy surrounding this story. A certain style and approach to life was already in the process of fading away, a flickering candle to be extinguished completely by the ensuing war. Gustav H upholds certain standards, never be caught smelling of anything other than a rare perfume even when escaping from prison and being chased across snow.

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