Wes Anderson’s latest extravagant cornucopia of cinematic delight is a visual overload that as it’s multi-layers are unpeeled, bombards one with such glorious minute detail at a frenetic pace one that there are times when you cannot fail to be dizzy with glee.
Partly inspired by the works of Stefan Zelig a Austrian Jew who was one of the world’s most famous writers in the 1930s but is now mostly forgotten. The author who serves as narrator of the movie is based on Zelig, but Anderson also claims that the central character of the exuberantly fastidious concierge M. Gustavo is in fact modeled on him too.
The setting is the fictional mid-European country with a Cinderella-esq pink palace precariously perched on top of the Alps is The Grand Budapest Hotel. The story told in flashbacks is of that glorious carefree pre war period when unseemly luxury was the order of the day. This temple of excess where the wealthy landed gentry were indulged in every whim was overseen by the purple coated M. Gustavo. Adored by both staff and guests alike nothing was ever too much trouble for this dandified perfectionist, from religiously handing out his mots of wisdom to his team, to sleeping with any of the elderly dowager guests. Preferably the ones who were very rich and blond.
When one such lucky recipient of his sexual prowess upped and died and M Gustavo travelled to his late lover’s Schloss to pay his respects, he discovered much to the chagrin of her evil son, that she had left M. Gustavo with a priceless painting. By now M. Gustavo had taken a paternal shine to Zero his latest Lobby Boy, and the two contrived to snatch the painting and make off with it before the son could stop him.
What follows is a joyous frenzied romp that includes M. Gustavo being jailed, Zero and his confectioner girlfriend aiding and abetting his escape, with the local militia in hot pursuit. Packed with incidents which really are all about marking the passing of this old World of a more leisured era before the War would end all of this and all that The Grand Budapest Hotel represented. Now as all the goings on are related to the author decades later by the new elderly owner, the Hotel is a sorry remnant of its glorious past. As is the owner, who was once the newbie Lobby boy Zero.
Mr Anderson as usually sets out to prove that there is no such thing as a ‘small part’ in his movies by packing his cast with a roster of major Hollywood players that they ensure that no character is anything less than a star turn. They include Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Kietel, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson plus Tilda Swinton in her totally scene stealing cameo as an 84 year old Dowager. Ralph Fiennes is superbly sublime as the cologne-reeking reckless Gustavo M., and full credit too the unknown Tony Revelon who held his own in this star studded piece with his captivating performance as young Zero.
For me like most of Mr Anderson’s previous movies he has to share the well deserved applause with his production designer Oscar nominated Adam Stockhausen and his cinematographer Robert Yeoman who made it look simply stunning. There were times I was so immersed with the impeccably choreographed shots on this candy-box covered set that I practically ignored the story line itself.
Anderson’s wicked sense of humor and the outrageous characters and the sheer joy he imbues in these near masterpieces of movies unwittingly make them some of the sophisticated campest spectacles in our cinemas today that rightly attract a large gay following worldwide.
Don’t miss one. It’s a real treat