THE LIFE ECLECTIC
Movie Review – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Review by Charlie Tarabour
Full disclosure: I am a rabid Wes Anderson fan. He’s definitely one of my favorite working filmmakers and I’d recommend every one of his films to anyone. As such, I doubt there was ever any question as whether I would like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” or not. It was just a question of how much I would like it.
Unsurprisingly, the answer is a lot. It’s his best movie since “The Life Aquatic” and arguably his third best with that and “Rushmore”. He’s honed his peculiar craft and brought together an endlessly enjoyable menagerie of pathos and comedy buttressed by talented collaborators.
Filmmakers speak often about their desire to put as much money on the screen as they can. In this regard, Wes Anderson is paramount. His production design, sets, acting talent, detailed props…the entirety of his mise-en-scene makes one wonder how he could ever afford to rent cameras in the first place. Wes Anderson affords his movie with rich stylistic irreverence on a reasonable budget.
It’s no secret Anderson suffers criticism of his movies being too esoteric and reliant upon superfluity and, of course, I disagree. I have always found the eccentricities of Wes Anderson movies to be relevant to the plot if not incredibly effective expository devices. His characters are always struggling with control of their own particular niches (M. Gustave H in the hotel, Steve Zissou on The Belafonte, and Max Fischer at Rushmore Academy) and in these quirky environments, they surround themselves with and create eccentric externalities of their sub-textual conflicts. It’s quite a natural theme for a filmmaker to develop when one considers what putting together a movie actually involves.
I suspect this is how Anderson himself feels planning and then attempting to pull of a truly imaginative motion picture. He wrestles with his own control issues through the supremely orchestrated images he attempts to put on screen. It’s like what Fellini did with “8½”, but instead of the meta-fiction, Anderson subsumes his issues deeply into lush narratives full of odd, driven people; geniuses, writers, marine biologists, khaki scouts, concierges. There’s that quote near the end of the movie where Zero tells The Writer, before ascending to his somber room in 1968, that some people remembered M. Gustave H as a vestige of a more gentile era, before fascism. He disagrees. He says by the time he arrived, the era Gustave symbolized had long since past. He just sought to perverse it for a little longer in his hotel.
Anderson exposes what may be his own humanity with l’aire du panache. This is what he, Max Fischer, Steve Zissou and Gustave H have done all along.
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Release Date: March 7, 2014
Run Time: 99 Minutes
Distributor: Scott Rudin Productions