13-19 June 2014 #711

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Sophia Pande

A Wes Anderson film, in a nutshell, sells nostalgia. Not necessarily overtly or obviously, yet each of his finely wrought, carefully designed films have that ineffable longing for things past.

My personal favourite is The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) partly because this film carries that perfect mix of hyper Anderson style and a crushingly good coming of age story that while being quite hilarious will also break your heart, leaving you longing for more of that particular world in which it is set – hence the nostalgia.

While I love almost all Wes Anderson films, his latest caper The Grand Budapest Hotel really has something in it for everybody.

Minutely realised, as per usual, the film is set at the eponymous Grand Budapest hotel in 1932, in the fictitious Republic of Zubrowka. The hotel is an alpine getaway for the rich and elderly and is run to perfection by Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) the concierge extraordinaire. Gustave is a bon vivant who has impeccable taste, runs everything at the hotel with the precision of a Swiss made clock and in return for his labour sleeps with all the wealthy blonde female guests who invariably adore him.

It is when one of these guests, Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe-und-Taxis, also referred to as Madame D (played to decrepit perfection by Tilda Swinton), who has just left the hotel after spending a night with Gustave passes away that our film’s grand adventure begins.

Gustave rushes to Madame D’s residence with his protégé, the wonderfully named Zero Moustafa (played by talented young newcomer Tony Revolori), just in time for the will to be read in front of dozens of expectant relatives. To the immediate family’s dismay – Madame D has left a priceless painting cheekily titled “Boy with Apple” to Gustave. Dmitri (Adrien Brody), Madame D’s villainous oldest son, refuses to hand over the painting, at which point Gustave and Zero take it off the wall with the tacit approval of Serge X (Mathieu Amalric) the slightly shady butler and abscond back to the Grand Budapest.

Many things go hilariously wrong before Gustave and Zero get their due, and if you have been reading carefully you will have noticed that the cast in this film is part of an exclusive register of the finest thespians from Great Britain, the United States, and France, all of whom appear to be delighted to appear in even the smallest of cameos.

In addition to spotting these wonderful appearances, you will enjoy, with surprise, Ralph Fiennes’ wonderfully comic turn as the loveably flawed Gustave. The only complaint perhaps being that the film at 99 minutes, runs just a little bit short for its sometimes complex, sometimes borderline farcical, animated, enchantingly convoluted yet thoroughly captivating storyline.

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