Sunday, 6 July 2014

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)



With his trademark colour palette and an ambitiously farcical plot Wes Anderson returns with The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), the tale of hotel concierge, Gustave. H played by Ralph Fiennes, who employs a bizarre level of celebrity at the titular hotel. When one of the wealthy female guests, whom Gustave has “serviced” in more ways than one, is killed under mysterious circumstances, the concierge becomes the number one suspect, particularly after a valuable painting from the victim’s collection is bequeathed to him. After being framed for her murder, Gustave steals the painting and mayhem is unleashed on the picturesque mountain range. With the victim’s family in hot pursuit, the concierge, with the help of a young lobby boy, must race against time to protect his inheritance and prove his innocence.

A gloriously entertaining amalgam of comedy, romance, prison drama and murder mystery, the film’s genre is almost indistinguishable, making it one of Anderson’s most original and unique offerings. The expeditious dialogue harks back to the exuberance of slapstick and Ealing Classics and it is delivered with delicious grace from Ralph Fiennes in an iconic and perfectly poised performance. An incredible ensemble cast provide gloriously entertaining subplots, all paced with a joyous and frenetic energy.

There's so much to enjoy from each character however brief their appearance may be. Tilda Swinton makes a wonderfully comic murder victim as Madame D, and Tony Revolori shows great ambition both as a young actor and as Zero, the Lobby Boy, Gustave’s eager protégé. Cameos come as thick and fast as the snow that caps the mountain tops. Some (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton) serve only to whet the appetite for re-viewings of Wes Anderson’s back catalogue and others provide the groundwork for characters so intriguing that they act as a precursor for their own grand story. Both Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe bring huge character to minimal screen time, which is perhaps one of the elements that makes the film so captivating. It could literally go off in any direction, it’s so precise and detailed in its composition that every scenario is as involving as the other.

The sets are perfectly grandiose and as ever, in all of Anderson’s work, they are animated wildly with an incredible array of clashing colours and intricately measured symmetry. The interiors are breathtaking in both size and design and full of unique character. The ever changing external landscape is captured in a style reminiscent of the imaginative stop-motion technique applied in Fantastic Mr Fox (2009), particularly the chase scene through the snow, which purposefully looks haphazardly produced, making the low budget aesthetic hilarious in its incongruity.

Traditionally, Alexandre Desplat’s score is equal in inventiveness to the visuals, adding perfect doses of both emotion and jollity to match the pace of events as they continue to accelerate. The story of Gustav. H is framed, or rather bookended by Jude Law as a curious young writer and the soothing tones of F. Murray Abraham as the aged Zero, provide the perfect spoken word narrative. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the year’s greatest. It’s packed with so much flavour, that you can practically taste it. Like the delicious looking Mendel’s cakes, Anderson’s greatest film to date is a mouthwateringly stylish and addictive sweet treat that has been meticulously decorated. You will want to feast on its greatness again and again.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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