You know, I’m trying to figure out which snapshots of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL I should include in this post because I just can’t decide which. Or should I just make a GIF (a slideshow, perhaps) from the entire movie? Truthfully, I have only see two Wes Anderson’s pics: MOONRISE KINGDOM and THE DARJEELING LIMITED—plus one short film: HOTEL CHEVALIER). They were mostly a hit-and-miss experience in spite of Wes Anderson’s mastery on art direction. Now, his brand new THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, for me, is a 100-minute of eye-gasmic experience so mesmerizing you don’t have the need to think about its
artificially quirky story at all.
With not one, but three timelines (each timeline goes with its own aspect ratio), THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a double flashback with lots of big actors. It’s basically like someone tells a story about someone telling a story about himself. Confusing? No. It opens in 1985 with this Author (Tom Wilkinson) recounting the story of his youth, referencing to his book: The Grand Budapest Hotel, a book about the history of The Grand Budapest Hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka (this is a fictional country located in Europe).
The young Author (Jude Law), as the story flashes back to 1968, retells his meeting with the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who behind his ‘mysterious’ image suddenly invites the Author into the story of how he starts his ownership of this grandeur hotel.
The plot flashes back again to 1932, when Zero was still a lobby boy (Tony Revolori), working for the owner of this Budapest hotel at the time: a flamboyant, poetry-mouthed Mr. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). Suddenly we jumped five years to the past! Already feel tired? Wait a sec. Wes prepares several ‘chapters’ (seriously reminded me of Lars von Trier’s latest, NYMPH()MANIAC, or some of Quentin Tarantino’s works) for this timeline because this is where everything is going on.
Everything starts when his—I didn’t get it: loyal customer? Woman he has affair with?—called Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) died. Gustave is bequeathed a valuable painting, “Boy with Apple”, by Madame D. This seems unacceptable, especially by her enraged son Dmitri (Adrien Brody). So Dmitri asked his right-hand man, Jopling (Willem Dafoe), to chase Gustave and Zero who stole the painting before it’s lost to Dmitri.
In this all-new Republic of Zubrowka, everything is pastel-colored. Everything is surreal, everything is fancy. Eye-candy. Like a children storybook. The people are quirky with their eccentric makeups and costumes (and body postures and names), and their talkings are poetic, rhymed. You enter the world of Wes Anderson, where story doesn’t necessarily become a big thing because it’s only a vehicle for him to show off all his obsession towards visual artistry and ‘finery’.
And it's proven. From the visual only, I'm sure I have never seen a movie this amazing. AMAZING. Its every second is a painting (did Wes create storyboards for each and every scene?). His trademark, his obsession to symmetry... wow. He pays great attention to details. He escalates every scene of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL to its utmost visual quality. It is obvious how Wes very carefully prepares this screwball comedy to be his masterpiece. And he succeeded at it; it is his masterpiece.
Everything feels like a dream. Alexander Desplat’s enchanting music fills in almost the entire duration: orchestraic yet friendly company for this beautiful picture. Costumes, camera works (how it moves to the left or right using fish-eye lens, God it’s gorgeous!), properties, set decoration, art direction, visual effects; everything is so unimaginably well-done you don’t really have to spend your thinking for the story.
Although sometimes I feel that the story is not really involving, in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, Wes has it all: biography, crime, murder, mystery, comedy, romance, heist, inspirations, all. Everything is upgraded with tendencies towards its visual quality a bit more than its storytelling quality. But it isn’t a bad thing at all; Wes’ effort to split this huge adventure to implement his style-over-substance treatment is worth applauding.
Some of the applause come from the cast, which mostly consists of Wes’ regular actors like Bill Murray (cameo), Jason Schwartzman (‘nearly’ cameo), Owen Wilson (cameo), and more—the list goes on. It’s surprising that Tony Revolori is not a new kid on Hollywood like Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in Wes’ previous work, MOONRISE KINGDOM. To be honest he is not that interesting; maybe because our attention has already stolen by Ralph Fiennes. He is Voldermort turned clumsy, semi-comedic father-figure. Just surprising how he suddenly comes out of his box, how he comes afresh with smiling and friendly character.
And that makes the best-est ensemble cast in the year. I want to see THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL again and again and again. There’s space between me and the film, that’s alright because, heck, it’s a bedtime story. It’s a puppet show, it’s an illustrated children storybook. It’s there, where we can love only from how it is told rather than what is told. This is Wes Anderson, who you can love from how passionately he re-grows our child imagination buried long enough as we grow older. He is the master.