Monday, March 17, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Taking place in 1930s pre-war Europe, in the fictitious country of Zubrowka, The Grand Budapest Hotel features Ralph Fiennes as concierge extraordinaire M Gustave. The screenplay was inspired by the writings of Austrian novelist and playwright Stefan Zweig and filmed entirely in Germany.

The Grand Budapest Hotel stands to be Wes Anderson's magnum opus. The Royal Tenenbaums remains one of my favorite movies and certainly my favorite work of Anderson's but The Grand Budapest Hotel is an artful execution of the best of his storytelling devices, clever casting and colorful, frosting like visuals. As Jake Coyle of the Washington Post said, "Anderson, like few other directors, has perpetually kept critics and moviegoers off-balance with his idiosyncratic blend of orchestrated whimsy, deep-rooted melancholy and deadpan slapstick." Part of what makes the film stand out in Anderson's repertoire is the unique timeline and narration style. For the viewer familiar with Anderson's previous films it also seems like a culmination of all his work with allusions to his previous features.
The cast includes many of Anderson's now usual suspects, a growing troupe that increases with each of his films. Although some have very brief appearances, all are memorable and often amusing. The typical list of extended cast members is omitted here in the hope that as an actor appears on screen it will surprise and delight the reader as it did me. The score by Alexandre Desplat is also remarkable. Desplat also did the music for Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr Fox and has received six Oscar nominations for his work, including this past year's Philomena.

The film opened March 7th in four theaters in New York and LA and continued to expand its limited release on the 14th. The movie is currently only playing in one theater in Portland, Cinema 21 on NW 21st. There are many showtimes but they are very crowded. Their website offers helpful tips on parking and easy online ticket purchasing. Even with a pre-purchased ticket, arrive with enough time to wait in line. If you wish to take advantage of the concessions that include beer and wine, give yourself extra time for the long lines and crowds. The film is now playing in 66 theaters nationwide and has made 4.8 million dollars domestically. Globally, the movie has already made an additional 20 million dollars. It was initially unclear to me at this point in Anderson's career why his films are still released to limited theaters and then expanded. I remember fighting opening crowds and sold out showings for The Royal Tenenbaums in Portland and then again back at school in Eugene to see it a second time weeks later. That was more than twelve years ago and five films later. Perhaps it is the way Anderson remains independent but most likely it is because while his films all make money and are critically acclaimed, they are not blockbusters. Not to be grandiose but if that preserves the artistic integrity of his films, so be it. The Grand Budapest Hotel won its first award, the Silver Berlin Bear Award at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. I suspect many awards and nominations are to follow.

No comments:

Post a Comment