Posted: 16 July 2014
“There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity… He was one of them. What more is there to say?” – Zero Moustafa.
At last, dear friends!
Finally managed to catch THE movie all of you were raving about months ago: The Grand Budapest Hotel, that intelligent, whimsical and gloriously off-kilter comedy by one of the true auteurs of modern cinema: Wes Anderson.
Earlier this year, it seemed like only other Bloggers would get to enjoy this instant classic, and my only enjoyment would be limited to reading all your favourable reviews as they relentlessly rolled in. You see, living just two minutes from a sandy beach on the Gulf of Thailand may seem like paradise, but being three hours drive away from civilization i.e. crowded malls with state-of-the-art multiplex cinemas, was only going to be exceedingly difficult. Even the local mall (barely ten years old) just screens the latest mainstream blockbusters DUBBED into Thai (yes folks, you read that correctly) so catching this movie’s impeccable script in its original English soundtrack seemed almost-impossible.
Moreover, bereft of car chases, endless explosions, superheroes and/or Tom Cruise, its chances of obtaining General Release in this part of the world were just like Mr Moustafa’s forename i.e. ‘zero.’
The accompanying poster – depicting the Hotel’s deightful and pink facade – stared out from every movie website as an almost cruel reminder of how so near – and yet so far – my deprivation had reached…
“I can’t think of any other film-maker who brings such overwhelming control to his films… Watching this is like taking the waters in Zubrowka. A deeply pleasurable immersion” – Peter Bradshaw.
The UK is blessed with a wide variety of arthouse cinemas; hopefully, my Summer sojourn in the UK would provide the opportunity to catch up with this classic…
…but alas no, the Grand Budapest had come… and gone already. Curses! Honestly, there was nothing for itbutbreathe a deep sigh of resignation and muster wearily on towards that eventual DVD release date…
Fast forward to this past Monday evening; returning to my Eastern base, taking a flight to Abu Dhabi (of all things) a scan of the programme to see what inflight entertainment was on offer, drew a most pleasant surprise – on the first page, my sore eyes lit up upon catching that poster.
After many months (and miles) my quest to find the Best Film of 2014 ended at 35,000 feet above Europe, (not exactly over Budapest, alas!) As regular readers will know, most of my viewing of the latest releases has occurred during long-distance flights; it just never occurred to me that this how it would be revealed to me! Having drafted the first notes for this Post in a cafe @ Abu Dhabi International, on the connecting flight to Bangkok a second viewing proved irresistible!
“…I could hear him saying the most ridiculous lines ever. I mean, he’s Ralph Fiennes – you wouldn’t believe he could say such things. It was hilarious and so hard to keep a straight face” – Tony Revolori.
Grand Budapest is being cited as Wes Anderson’s Most Outstanding Movie (to date). Although an admirer of The Royal Tenenbaums, and absolutely infatuated with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, it could well be a strong contender for that title, for it is not weighed down with the melancholia of those two previous films, but is, instead, imbued with period detail – always a bonus in my book!
A crowning glory of this Eastern European exercise is the range of top quality performances on offer: loved Willem Dafoe in Life Aquatic, so it is good to see him here, even if he does play a despicable cat-flinging bounder! Ed Norton, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody and Jeff Goldblum (looking decidedly Freudian) are particularly good.
Worship Bill Murray, whose career has gained a healthy resurgence through Anderson’s work; his presence here (albeit all-too-brief) as Monsieur Ivan, head of the mysterious Society of the Crossed Keys, is particularly well-appreciated. It’s always fun to watch Owen Wilson in any Wes Anderson film, and it’s amazing how he got included in this – as “Monsieur Chuck” indeed! And to top it all, there is M Gustave, played by “a splendidly rancid and randy” Ralph Fiennes.
The hotel itself is at once both an enchanting and eerie edifice – “a superb cathedral of eccentricity” – with its large and deserted halls, the exquisite matte-painting backdrops and – let’s face it – would it be complete without its lovingly animated wickety funicular?
Even the balalaika-laden soundtrack is delightful.
While we wait for Mr. Anderson to regale us with his next, exquisitely-crafted visual feast, yours truly will endeavour to trawl through the darkest confines of indie movie-making, hoping to track down some other noteworthy underground hits.