The Grand Budapest Hotel review: Yesterday's world sparkles with menaceMovies
Trailer: Grand Budapest Hotel - cast of characters
Meet the cast of characters from Wes Anderson's new film, which recounts the adventures of a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel.PT1M35S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2zvlz 620 349 December 24, 2013
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Running time
- 100 min
- Wes Anderson
- Screen writer
- Wes Anderson
- Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Lea Seydoux, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody
- OFLC rating
The new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is full of the elements you expect to find in a Wes Anderson film. There are lovingly composed tableaus, each a marvel of production design, immaculately designed uniforms for both soldiers and hotel bellboys, and a sighting of Bill Murray. It's so unmistakably Wes World that his style acts as a form of subterfuge.
What's new? Time travel. A young devotee looks at a statue of a deceased author in the present day and then opens one of his books, then in 1985 the author (Tom Wilkinson) talks about a curious man he once met, then it's 1968 and the author is a young writer (Jude Law) about to meet the aforementioned character, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who soon relates events that took place in 1932.
Anderson goes back through these eras, changing the screen ratio along the way to emphasise the differing worlds, as a way of breaking with people's expectations of his work. His previous movie, 2012's splendid Moonrise Kingdom, used young love as the lens through which his obsessions gained an emotional warmth, and here the whimsy of a madcap past sits atop tragedy and loss.
A fading Soviet-era hotel in the fictional Eastern European nation of Zubrowka, the Grand Budapest Hotel – owned by Zero Moustafa in 1968 – was at the height of its service and sophistication when he arrived there in 1932. A lone refugee from somewhere unsettled and far away, the teenage Zero (Tony Revolori) finds, like Anderson, something, and someone, he can dedicate himself to.
His mentor is M. Gustave H, the charming but exactingly dedicated concierge who, as played by Ralph Fiennes, has a dapper moustache and a way of saying ''darling'' that would delight Noel Coward.
The definition of service, in Gustave's world, extends to bedding the stable of dowagers who regularly visit the hotel, and the plot leaps forward when one of them, Madame D (Tilda Swinton), leaves her charming lover a priceless painting, Boy with Apple, that he swiftly spirits away.
Anderson used to invent eccentric locales for his characters to inhabit – 2001's The Royal Tenenbaums had the 375th Street YMCA in his Manhattan – but here he's summoning a historic period that's been lost: the manners and mien of middle Europe between the wars. It's a time that allows for a furious heir – Madame D's son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) – cobblestone boulevards, and rising tensions on the border where demands for identity papers become ever more strident.
Anderson, an American who resides in Paris, credits Austrian writer Stefan Zweig as inspiration for The Grand Budapest Hotel, and it's worth noting two things: Zweig's final autobiographical work was titled The World of Yesterday, and upon finishing it in exile, having fled the Nazi occupation of his homeland, he committed suicide.
The picture's world of yesterday is initially crisply comedic: when a face-off over Madame D's will turns into a brawl each punch is delivered with immaculate timing and each recipient gets a bloodied nose with a single crimson nostril. But in the background political change looms menacingly, as a conscientious police officer such as Henckels (Edward Norton) is replaced by more sinister forces.
''You're the first of the official death squads to which we've been formally introduced,'' Gustave remarks to a burly combatant at one point, and the film's worth lies in that note-perfect mix of defiant manners and terrible inevitability. The Zubrowka you see is a country headed for fascist rule, with the Holocaust to follow, before decades of suffocating Communist totalitarianism bear down on it. That knowledge gives the tangy humour great resonance.
Fiennes has been all kinds of beasts, including Harry Potter's Voldemort, this century, but here he's funny amid drawing-room farce and touching in his attention to the young Zero and the teen's first love, pastry shop baker Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).
In this Wes Anderson world, the lines are swiftly said and sometimes delivered by unlikely heroes.