The Grand Budapest Hotel

We’ve just seen American director Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was a sumptuous viewing experience and will definitely be on my 2014 list of top films.

Mr. Peabody thought the film was ‘a love letter to Europe’, which is an excellent summation. Handily for this blog, it’s also a wonderful crime caper, triggered by the murder of a fantastically wealthy 84-year-old aristocrat (‘she was dynamite in the sack, by the way’), who’s played with panache by Tilda Swinton.

There are so many things to love about this film: it’s expertly constructed on four different time levels – the present day, 1985, 1968 and 1932 – which fit snugly inside one another like Russian dolls; it celebrates friendship, loyalty, love, kindness, courtesy, tolerance, multiculturalism and cosmopolitan ‘old’ Europe before the darkness of fascism and then communism falls; the characterisation is marvellous, especially of concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and bellboy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori/F. Murray Abraham); it shows the importance of writers as chroniclers of memories and history, and the power of literature down the generations; it’s quirky, funny, and profoundly moving; it features a wonderful ensemble cast and is a visual feast from start to finish.

Two extra tidbits. It was filmed largely in Berlin, in and around the famous Babelsberg Studios, and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. It’s loosely inspired by the life and works of Austrian-Jewish writer Stefan Zweig (see a marvellous interview with Anderson discussing this aspect of the film).

Wes Anderson is at the top of his game and has delivered an assured, masterfully crafted work of genius. There. Now go see it if you haven’t already! The official trailer is here.

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