“The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)

Blowhard, Esq. writes:


Wes Anderson’s stab at a screwball comedy, watching THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL felt like staring at a wall of hyperactive Swiss clocks. The production design, cinematography, and costumes are simultaneously enchanting and oppressive. The movie it most reminded me of is “300” — so weighted down with design and aestheticism that I felt suffocated. Anderson’s constant symmetrical, centered framing (he even shot the film in the more balanced Academy ratio instead of widescreen) in particular comes off like an Aspie-OCD tick. Along with his use of zooms it flattens the space and makes the film resemble a children’s storybook, admittedly a plus or minus depending on your POV. To ornament even further the narrative is actually a story-within-a-story, like Russian nesting dolls. I empathized with Anderson’s hipster-fin-de-siecle sensibility but I was never involved with the Ralph Fiennes character, here playing a hotel concierge and gigolo who gets involved in a murder mystery, or his relationship with the lobby boy played by Tony Revolori. The film is ostensibly about the decline of civilization, but the hotel is just as stylish (from Belle Epoque to Bauhaus) at the end of the movie as the beginning, so what exactly was lost?

Although I didn’t respond much to the movie, Sax did, so allow me to turn the floor over to him.

Sax von Stroheim writes:

GHB_9907 20130130.CR2

Wes Anderson’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: Civilization — and not just Civilization but the most ephemeral artifacts of civilization (perfume, romantic poetry, paintings, good manners) — as our only real bulwark against Barbarism, riddled throughout with a melancholy suspicion that that might not be enough. I think, like Anderson’s last two live actioners (DARJEELING LTD and MOONRISE KINGDOM), that it’s a great movie and something that I’d call a masterpiece if I didn’t think that that word is slightly inappropriate. Not because the movies aren’t great — I think they’re among the greatest contemporary American movies — but due to Anderson’s deliberate holding back, a defensive push-pull that drives him to undermine these perfectly choreographed and art directed moments, as if he’s the Marquis de la Cheyniest sabotaging his own prized clockwork toys. It’s a movie that wants to believe in masterpieces but retains a painful sliver of skepticism. Anyway, in these last three movies, Anderson shows himself to be the heir of the great Hollywood auteurs of the 30s (mainly Lubitsch, Von Sternberg, Hawks, but also, in MOONRISE KINGDOM, Walsh), but a true 21st-Century American Renoir.

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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12 Responses to “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)

  1. peterike says:

    I really liked “Budapest,” but I respond well to Anderson’s aesthetic. It would be difficult to explain why I like it, though. Almost like explaining what you like about a light bodied red wine and then groping for all those ultimately unsatisfying wine words: “fruity,” “bright,” “smooth,” “fresh.” Yeah, but why do you like it?

    I think “Tanenbaums” was Anderson’s peak to date, and precisely the sort of peak you think he’ll never surpass. But then, you didn’t think Dylan would surpass his 60s phase, and then “Blood on the Tracks” came along. And then you thought he was kaput and he puts out two of the greatest albums of his career as a grizzled old croaker. So you can never tell with artists. But Anderson is going to have to break out of his mold in some way. He can’t just change the subject while using the same techniques. And I think I liked “Moonrise Kingdom” more than “Budapest,” but I’ll put that on hold until I see “Budapest” again. Anderson’s films do have the knack of growing on you with repeated viewings.

    And speaking of his obsessive camera centering, this is a great video.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fenster says:

    Damn, now you are going to get me to watch the contraption, just to see which side I am on.

    I suspect I will be with Blowhard, Esq. My mother had phobias and it could simply be some residual claustrophobic genes lurking around, but Anderson’s stylized world, so well described by Blowhard Esq., puts me on edge. Whatever the cause, I am rebuffed at the symmetrical gates, I can’t get in and that is that. Maybe there is a world of meaning in there, as well described by Sax, but I doubt I will ever see it. I see only arch for arch’s sake.

    However, if I see it, I could see myself agreeing with Sax that it is Anderson’s Inglorious Basterds–but that would only be a function of the fact that Tarantino is the other filmmaker nowadays I have to be harried into seeing out of a vague sense of obligation.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Everyone connects with art in their own way I suppose. The Grand Budapest Hotel struck me as an exemplary celebration of advanced Old European civilization. I cherished almost every moment – slight annoyances not withstanding. It left me pining for a time machine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a dazzling film in many ways, so it’s not hard for me to understand why people like it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • peterike says:

      Good point. The “lost civilization” aspect of it is definitely an emotional factor. Especially since it was precisely that “Mittel European” German/Austrian/Hungarian/etc. type of culture that went up in smoke and was lost as an influence on Western civilization. I wonder how much of the West’s now rampant over-emotionalism is because of it. Everyone’s Southern Italian now as far as that goes. Even the Brits have become weepy pant wetters.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Faze says:

    People may enjoy watching Anderson films even more in the future than they do today, just as we enjoy highly stylized old films like “Sunrise”, “Metropolis” and Max Reinhardt’s “Midsummer Nights Dream” possibly more than the movie-goers of their own time. We’re not threatened by the their contrivances, and we have no agenda of urgent realities we resent being left out. They are wonderful, to use Fenster’s word, “contraptions”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. agnostic says:

    I’ve only watched the trailer and features for this one, but I can’t get past the uncanny valley in tone — is it sincere or farcical? It’s trying to have it both ways, wanting to be sincere but having to throw up a cloak of farce out of fear of being rejected once exposed. I felt the same way during Rushmore, the only Wes Anderson movie I’ve seen in full.

    It’s like the confused and uncommitted mind of a 12 year-old. “I’ll let my guard down, but only if you promise to wholeheartedly accept me and pat me on the head. If not, I’ll just pretend like the whole thing was just a goof in the first place, so you didn’t really see the real me, so you were only rejecting a caricature of me — not the real me.” Keep telling yourself that…

    Movies that combine opposite tones seem to do better when they begin from a farcical skeleton, and then add a sincere / humanizing layer of flesh on top. Like Heathers. Then, it doesn’t feel like a cop-out, fear of rejection, and so on. In Heathers, the opposites are a light tone serving to rein in a dark tone at the core. It’s trying to keep something destabilizing from getting too out of control.


  6. Pingback: The Best of UR 2014 | Uncouth Reflections

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