Title: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Drama, Comedy
#. The Delightful Details
The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most whimsical movie I have ever seen. The hotel itself looks like a cake covered in pink icing! It was very peculiar how flat the Grand Budapest Hotel came across when I first saw it. At first I thought it must be a certain lens or filming technique that achieved such a flat look without any distortion. I was puzzled however, when I saw the next few scenes occurring inside the Grand Budapest Hotel as they had a good bit of distortion. Imagine my delight when I learned that they had actually created a miniature of the hotel (more here)! The cable car has the most delightful shape and pattern (you can see it in the lower right corner of the movie poster), but I’d probably be nervous if I had to ride it. It reminds me of a cable car on a funicular that I went up in Switzerland, but that’s a story for another day. It’s just that if the brakes of that death contraption failed, it would go shooting down the mountain wouldn’t it? I also found it interesting that they decided to turn a shopping mall into the hotel they used for the rest of the movie (behind the scenes here).
Mendl’s pastries adds another touch of pink and whimsy in a surprisingly functional way. I was delighted to see that the Mendl’s pastries had a key role in the film, as I love when objects introduced early in the film appear later on as a crucial element. It sort of feels like finding a clue to a mystery and it’s always nice when it doesn’t turn out to be fluff distracting you from the story. It also goes to show much appreciation people have for well crafted sweets. It was a true moment of genius when the inspector cut through all the different types of food, but hesitated and left the Mendl’s pastries untouched.
The secret Society of Crossed Keys cranked up the excitement to this wild adventure as it opened a world of possibilities. What is it about secret societies and exclusive clubs that piques our interest and curiosity? I loved the vintage keys and tassels (pic here) for each hotel! Why must keys look so boring these days! I get that they’re practical, but a part of me wishes I had one of those vintage styled keys with a tassel.
#. The Narrator
I didn’t particularly care for the two extra introductions that nest the story within a story, but Jude Law plays the role of a young writer in the main introduction perfectly. Between The Grand Budapest Hotel and Sherlock Holmes Jude Law has the writer act down pat. He even made the German language sound pleasant and melodic! If Jude Law started narrating audio books I think I’d buy every single one!
#. Mr. Gustave
Some people know exactly what needs to be done, how to do it properly, and how to do it in style. Such is the charisma of the character Mr. Gustave. The moment he learns about Madame D’s death he instructs the lobby boy Zero to pack “a bottle of the Pouilly-Jouvet ’26 (more on that here) in an ice bucket with two glasses” for the train ride. The most I ever pack for a train ride are headphones or a book! Even when he’s in jail he makes sure to send instructions to the staff at the hotel. Mr. Gustave is also a man of poetry and recites poems several times throughout the film. It makes me wonder why the only poems I know are nursery rhymes. At the same time, he is also a very odd and brazen man who will tell you that he “sleeps with all [his] friends” and describes young women as “filet steak” without batting an eye. Fortunately the film never lingers for very long and quickly moves on to his more redeemable qualities. He brings professionalism and pride to his work and is loyal to his friends to the end.
#. The Humor
As with all things, one size does not fit all. The humor of The Grand Budapest Hotel is in the quirky characters and absurdity of events; some of it is just downright bizarre! Like when Mr. Gustave compliments Madame D on the cream they use at the morgue, or when Deputy Kovacs’ dead cat is handed over by the coat check. Oh and the chopped fingers! Never mind the dark humor though, the real humor was in the wit and brilliant timing in both the actions and lines of Zero and Mr. Gustave. It was so amusing to watch them prance over sleeping guards and run up and down the stairs like an animated character. The drawn out pauses before an unexpected reaction was refreshing as well. I should note that while I enjoyed the multitude of humor embedded in this film, my parents couldn’t seem to get into it. They understand a good bit of English but as they picked up English as a foreign language, it was difficult for them to keep up with the pace of the subtitles which frankly didn’t do the film justice anyway. To be honest, I don’t know that it’s possible to create translations that capture all the subtle irony and humor in the text…
The camera work is marvelous in this film. You can tell it’s used to its full creative potential because it adds to the storytelling and keeps things snappy! There are a lot of movies with good cinematography, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder if they’re just playing it safe. It was refreshing to see so much creativity in the camera movement and framing. There’s a scene early on in the film where Mr. Mosher pops out of a window like a cuckoo clock and it’s just small moments like this that make the movie so much fun. The style reminds me of Jacques Tati’s Playtime in a way, only chock full of color and whimsy. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Playtime so my memory is failing me, but I remember it being a bit of an oddity with lots of people and interesting spaces throughout the film. Perhaps it’s the fact that everything is carefully put into place yet falls together in this orderly chaos that makes my memory reach out to Tati’s Playtime. I also liked the inter-title designs in the Grand Budapest as they added a nice touch and reminded me of silent films.
I’ve never been to a bath house in Europe and I realize this is a work of fiction taking place in a fictional country, but do you have to wear swimming caps in public baths in Europe? Swimming caps are required for most if not all swimming pools in Korea, but never in a public bath. I thought it was peculiar that Mr. Zero Moustafa and the Young Writer were wearing swimming caps while taking a bath.