Director: Wes Anderson. Fox Searchlight/Scott Rudin/Indian Paintbrush/Studio Babelsberg/American Empirical (15)
Cast & Credits
Producers: Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales, Scott Rudin.
Writer: Wes Anderson.
Camera: Robert D. Yeoman.
Music: Alexandre Desplat.
Sets: Adam Stockhausen.
Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori.
Gustave H (Fiennes) is the unassailable, highly reliable, sexually ambiguous and internationally respected concierge at the renowned Grand Budapest Hotel. When he is accused of murdering the wealthy Countess Madame D (Swinton), one of his many octogenarian lovers, he teams up with his new Lobby Boy Zero (Revolori) and Zero’s girlfriend (Ronan) in a race against time to prove his innocence.
Anderson’s passion for beautifully photographed, funny and cleverly constructed comic dramas (such as the evocative and luscious Moonrise Kingdom, 2012) comes this mighty, starry, big old wedding cake of a farce, a Grand Hotel (1932) meets 8 Women (2002), bursting with ripe sets, costumes, colours…and in Anderson’s film, even riper language.
Anderson is also a man who likes collaboration, this is his seventh film with star Murray (here in a blink and you will miss him part as concierge peer of Gustave’s) and he has filmed frequently with Wilson, Schwartzman and Brody on previous films.
He and cameraman Yeoman have also worked with each other closely on nearly all of Anderson’s directorial efforts these past nearly-20 years so have developed a key and uniquely identifiable, comic cinematographic flourishes (the use of photos inserted into the film to explain a character or situation and the frequent use of the take/double-take technique, such as when Gustave and Zero talk to each other and we cut away from a subjective shot, as if the camera is one of the characters looking at the other, then cutting away to show both of them facing each other).
The look of Budapest takes a notable aesthetic step away from these films with the sheer vibrancy and vivid colour palate that has been used throughout the production. Other Academy Award nominees next year will have to work double-hard to top the electric, candy-floss pinks, pulsing purples and muted ‘eighties’ browns and oranges to even stand a look-in in 2015 against this unimpeachable stunner.
This is Anderson’s first film with star Fiennes and based on the quality of his lubricious performance here, it hopefully won’t be their last. Fiennes is on dazzling form as the delightfully cynical, theatrically camp, terrifically foul-mouthed but deeply loyal old guard professional gentleman.
Apart from wide-eyed Revolori, he is the main part in the film as the rest of the cast are nothing more than a roll call of audacious and impressive support turns of wildly differing screen durations. Some, such as Wilson, Murray and Swinton (who sat through five hours of latex make-up sessions to emerge as a very convincing nearly-90 years old woman, complete with cataracts) are practically walk-on parts. Others, such as Keitel as one of Fiennes’ tattooed prison chums, are full support turns. Dafoe, unlike Swinton, needs no make-up maestro’s help to look like a vaguely warmed up Nosferatu in leathers, but is good fun none the less, whether merrily chucking cats out of windows of lopping people’s fingers off with slamming doors.
Although a visually delicious confection, there are trifling moments. Actually, they are irritants that detract one’s attention from what should be a riotously entertaining farce.
Anderson’s habit of dwelling too long on repetition to establish connections throughout the film, such as when Gustave and Zero travel up a mountain in a cable car, frequently being asked if he is ‘Monsieur Gustave of the…’ is intensely annoying (it isn’t just Fiennes who ends up screaming out ‘For fuck sake!’).
The following scenes as the intrepid duo mistakenly end up taking part in a winter sports contest, though dazzling and wonderful to look at, none the less exasperates as a joke too far. Anderson is a talented man but clearly needs an independent script editor to make sure his talent doesn’t run away with its self, run out of road and keep on running off the nearest cliff edge.
This film still tickled me pink all over – from the top of my head, right through my pants and way down to my wee little toes.