The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest from Wes Anderson, and what great fun it is. My review of Monuments Men pointed out that putting the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bill Murray and Hugh Bonneville in the same film was no guarantee of a good film. Following that logic, what should we make of the following turning up together: Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Saoirse Ronan, Owen Wilson and (a wonderfully made up) Tilda Swinton? The answer is a near masterpiece of cameos that add up to a highly entertaining and memorable film.
In a complex serious of flashbacks, Tom Wilkinson plays an author remembering his younger self (Jude Law) being recounted, a number of years before, the life story of The Grand Budapest's mysterious elderly guest Zero Moustafa, played by Abraham. (Are you still with me?) Featuring strongly in this life story, Ralph Fiennes plays hotel concierge and lothario Gustave H., seducer of his elderly and wealthy guests. He is supported in this role for everything outside the bedroom that is by trainee Bellboy, and Gustave's protégé, Zero (in the younger form of Tony Revolori).
Following the murder of one such guest (Tilda Swinton), Gustave is not surprised to feature strongly in her will, awarded a priceless Renaissance painting Boy with Apple. This is much to the displeasure of her son Dimitri (Adrien Brody) and his evil henchman Jopling (Willem Defoe). What follows is a madcap pursuit across snowy landscapes, various grisly murders, a couple of civil wars, some disconnected fingers, a prison break and a downhill ski chase.
All the cast seem to enjoy themselves immensely, but it is the production design and cinematography that really shines through: every single shot of the film is just a joy to look at, from the bright pastel colours of some scenes to the oak-panelled finery of the elderly lady's mansion. Beautifully crafted, beautifully lit,beautifully costumed, beautifully filmed. Bringing a film out so early in the new Oscar-year must be risky: but one can only hope that the voting members have a long enough memory to recognise this movie in these sorts of categories.
There are some interesting crossovers to recent films: both 'The Book Thief' and 'The Monuments Men' were filmed as this was in Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam. No coincidence then that the steam train chugging through the East European countryside looked startlingly similar to that in the opening scenes of 'The Book Thief'; and if you have Bill Murray and Bob Balaban in town for Monuments Men, then why not stick them together for this film too? Simples! Alexandre Desplat turns up AGAIN with another quirky and fitting score.
All in all, if you like the quirky style of films of the likes of Moulin Rouge then you'll love this. Highly recommended.
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