Regarded as a surprising success despite debated creative stagnation, Wes Anderson has developed a sense of unique style and originality ever since the debut of his short film “Bottle Rocket” in 1996.
What makes him a prolific, productive auteur, comparable to the likes of Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino and Alfred Hitchcock, is his unrelenting dedication to create the world he so desires; though sometimes sharing writing credits with the likes of Roman Coppola, Owen Wilson and Noah Baumbach, Anderson maintains his stance as the singular visionary by way of producing and ultimately directing his feature lengths.
His use of impeccable symmetry, wide-angle lens, slow-motion tracking shots, off-kilter slapstick comedy, saturated color palettes, a regular ensemble cast and ever-present Futura typeface all prepare you for an off-beat, whimsical tale where the young men are more mature than the elderly and families are lovable, dysfunctional centerpieces that are impossible to avoid.
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s eighth feature, seeks to delight fans of his quirky, lovable canon and to charm those often miffed by his assumed acceptance of style-over-substance.
Taking place in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, the film initially follows an unnamed older writer in the year 1968 recollecting an encounter he had in his earlier years with Mr. Zero Moustafa, the owner of the dilapidated Grand Budapest Hotel. Zero asks the writer to dine with him, and during their meal, he recalls how he gained ownership of what used to be a prestigious establishment.
In 1932, the Republic of Zubrowka, like many other European countries at the time, suffers from the repercussions of a devastating continental war and is at the brink of an inevitable second. Zero Mustafa is hired as head lobby boy for the Grand Budapest’s most distinguished and devoted concierge, Monsieur Gustave, a flirty “manther” often seen charming the distinguished, elderly females who flock to the hotel for his presence. One of Gustave’s most frequent visitors, Madame D., invites Gustave to spend the night with her, and in the morning, she speaks of a premonition she had regarding her future which is filled with a potentially murderous demise; unconvinced, Gustave merely brushes this off and sends her home only to later find she has died days later. Devastated, Gustave with Zero accompanying resolves to visit Madame D.’s wake; his actions set in motion a series of events involving a hungry assassin, a priceless painting and a raving, rejected heir who will do whatever it takes to claim his part of the will.
Eccentric and yet unexpectedly somber, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is Anderson’s most ambitious title to date. Forgoing the emotional depth of previous titles like Moonrise Kingdom, Grand Budapest instead relies on its subtle charm and levity to balance out zany Fascist oppression musing silently in the background. Evocatively captivating, the film embraces the idea of accepting instead of toying with nostalgia and shows an understanding of brevity in a world lost.
Do not let the cookie cutter backdrop fool you; the tongue-in-cheek antics never attempt to dissuade any acceptance of the offhanded darkness that rarely finds itself in frame. Instead, it is the relationship which matures between Gustave and Zero which elevates the visually poetic Zubrowka to a point where the audience can indulge within the playful melancholy of this peculiar environment.
It is difficult to manifest on paper how influential Wes Anderson has been in respect to how I currently view and appreciate film. From my first exposure to “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to my most recent completion of Mark Browning’s “Wes Anderson: Why His Movies Matter,” I have consistently felt entranced and at ease with the spirit of his films which emphasize the balance between the impish and the woeful, the youthful and the elderly.
In “Grand Budapest Hotel,” I find myself once again beguiled by his unorthodox story-telling style and full of admiration and a new level of respect for his work. Continuously, I was overwhelmed by musical director Alexandre Desplat who, with influences from Russian-folk composers, created an euphonious film score which immaculately accompanied each scene. Visually, I found the color palette of what could only be described as a combination of plum, beige, mauve, cardinal and raw umber to be some of the most unorthodox eye-candy I’ve thoroughly appreciated. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” deserves to be one of the most sought-out films of this year, and you are doing yourself a huge displeasure by not indulging Mr. Zero Moustafa in his narrative.
Those familiar with Wes Anderson’s other films especially “Fantastic Mr. Fox” will be enthralled with “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Fans of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and Jonathan Dayton’s and Valerie Faris’s “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Ruby Sparks” are encouraged to attach themselves to “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and discover the world of Wes Anderson if they haven’t done so already.