The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
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Wes Anderson has a unique style that is influenced by everything he has experienced in his lifetime. He is perhaps the best example of the auteur theory. He creates films that one would only need to view a few frames of to know instantaneously who is the creator.
I would like to imagine that all of his films take place in a single universe. For this reason, he makes films that are largely adored and attractive to his audience. The Anderson-verse is one in which we would all love to live in. One full of wit and airy whimsy. People aren't overtly cruel to each other, preferring to engage in pranks and mischief in which everyone has a laugh over.
To live in The Grand Budapest is to be momentarily frozen in time. A period that only dwells in the memory and imagination of those who know of its secluded existence. For me I would like to imagine that the hotel is the mirror image of Kubrick's Overlook Hotel. Winding maze-like corridors, distinctive carpet patterns, old-world charm. Whereas the Overlook was largely vacant during our stay there, we get to see the Grand near its prime and after time mostly forgets all about it. Both hotels are reflections of the world around them as well as of each other.
The influence of the caretaker or concierge is especially obvious. With Gustave H, the Grand flourishes. A grand facade that holds up all too well to cover the cracks in the foundations. But ultimately, nothing lasts forever and change happens whether we want it to or not. The spectacle of control we try to put forth will eventually dissipate when the reality we keep at bay checks-in for a night. And once it checks-out, nothing is ever the same. The grand chandelier is a bit dimmer, the champagne a touch less bubbly, the piano not as emotive.
However, I enjoyed my stay at the Grand Budapest and I shall return soon.
Of course it isn't meaningless. If you saw no meaning, you weren't looking properly.
It's a film about looking back, about nostalgia for an earlier time, and is both supportive and critical of it. The film revels in the fun and excitement of yesteryear, miring itself in the archaic, right down to its aspect ratio. It revels in the retro, delighting in the kind of plots over stolen artwork, cartoonish villainy and madcap chases that seem lost to modern film. Even the central macguffin of the movie is a painting, a preserved snapshot of something that no longer exists.
But it's also highly critical of looking back. The elder Zero keeps the Grand Budapest open, why? Out of nostalgia, of reverence for something long gone. But is he happy? Is he fulfilled? Of course not.
So YES, the film has meaning. It has something to say, a deeper motive to it. Several, if you want to dig deeper. If you choose not to, that's your loss.
A unfolding dessert, say a well designed cake, of a film, with a bittersweet center. Though there are works of greater substance in Anderson's catalogue, the perfectly enveloping Technicolour vistas are just a lush treat. Kudos to the production design, cinematography and editing. The ensemble cast all impress, but Ralph Fiennes truly leads the charge as the composed Gustav. It's not a work of tremendous drive or overwrought drama, the conflict always has a touch of the gently comedic, but it remains a dreamlike postcard from a forgotten time captured at its zenith, increasing Anderson's stylistic reach from the personal into the almost archetypal.
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This movie ranks #21 in BBC's 100 greatest films of the 21st Century
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This movie ranks #141 in Golden Globe Best Picture Winners
This movie ranks #188 in Top 250
This movie ranks #518 in Academy Award Best Picture Nominees
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