Sunday, April 6, 2014

"The Grand Budapest Hotel": Grander Tales Are Rarely Told

Now In Theaters

Personally, I'm a big fan of having a bit of strange in my cinematic diet.  If a director is capable of affecting some ludicrous dialogue with some fantastically surreal visuals, you can consider my ticket purchased.  That's some of what we have here in The Grand Budapest Hotel.  This is a film that is delightfully witty, completely visually distinct, amazingly heartfelt, and uniquely memorable.

The story is told through a series of flashbacks as perceived by current owner of the Grand Budapest, Zero, as he is interviewed by an author interested in his life story.  In this story, Zero is a young lobby boy under the tutelage of Mr. Gustave, a kind relic of times gone by whose decorum only thinly veils a vain, perverse, arrogant, but ultimately immensely lovable man.  The interplay between these two characters is the heart of the tale, and watching them grow close through an odd combination of fiendishly silly hi-jinks and constantly interrupted poetry is a delight to see.  The film's plot revolves around the murder of one of Gustave's patrons, as well as the inheritance of a prized piece of art.  As benign as this story sounds, it's anything but, featuring a cast of immediately memorable characters that both thicken the plot and fall victim to it.  It's a wonderfully unique tale in its quirky execution, if not in its originality.

And that execution is simply beautiful.  Scenes are framed with a breathtaking amount of precision.  The sets are vibrant and bizarre, yet still reminiscent of Europe at the dawn of the second World War.  The character designs are archetypal so as to be instantly recognizable, yet completely unique due to their strange mannerisms and costumes.  The actors' performances of those characters is always fresh and often quotable.  The whole production seems to fall somewhere between a stage performance and an adult cartoon, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  The cinematography is stellar, the acting is superb, the dialogue is witty and immensely funny, and there's even an undercurrent of melancholy as a fascist Not-zi army threatens the existence of the Grand Budapest Hotel.  Even though the film is a comedy at heart, and a damn good one at that, it still manages to pluck at some heartstrings along the way, and quite effectively at that.

So do I recommend The Grand Budapest Hotel?  I was laughing throughout the whole thing.  I was in awe at the cinematographic tricks director Wes Anderson used to frame his shots.  I geeked out at the fact that the freakin' aspect ratio changed when the story cut from interview to flashback.  I found it difficult to wipe the giddy smile from my face even after leaving the theater.  This is a film where a smart directorial vision gives us an incredibly bizarre and funny film that both doesn't take itself seriously and delivers its lack of seriousness with a professional and artistic polish.  Do I recommend this film?  I can't recommend it enough, dear readers.  Not nearly enough.

So what are you waiting for?  Get to your local theater and see it before it leaves the big screen.  Then leave a comment below and share your favorite moment.

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