A ho­tel with a dif­fer­ence

The Church of England - - REVIEWS -

Writer-di­rec­tor Wes An­der­son’s imag­i­na­tion runs riot at The Grand Bu­dapest Ho­tel (cert. 15). Vis­ually in­ven­tive, and full of wit and oc­ca­sional wis­dom, the film fea­tures many of An­der­son’s reg­u­lar cast mem­bers in cameos but fea­tures Ralph Fi­ennes in the main role as concierge at the ho­tel that’s seen bet­ter days.

The story is told through a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween a guest at the ho­tel and an old man who, he learns, is the owner. Jude Law plays an un­named “young writer” who meets Zero Moustafa (F Mur­ray Abra­ham) and, over a meal, hears how he came by the ho­tel.

In flash­back, Zero comes to the fic­tional coun­try of Zubrowka as a teenage refugee (Tony Revolori) and is taken on as a ho­tel lobby boy un­der the tute­lage of Mon­sieur Gus­tave (Fi­ennes). Apart from his predilec­tion of schmooz­ing el­derly fe­male guests, Gus­tave is a model of deco­rum, al­ways well pre­sented, and uses a cologne, L’Air de Panache, which An­der­son ac­tu­ally had a per­fumer make up as gifts for the cast.

An­der­son’s screen­play is in­spired by sto­ries by Aus­trian nov­el­ist Ste­fan Zweig – maybe de­picted as the “young writer” and “the au­thor” (Tom Wilkin­son) – but An­der­son’s off-the-wall story has be­hind it a back­ground of im­pend­ing war. Jewish, Zweig left Aus­tria in 1934 as Hitler’s an­tiSemitism took hold, liv­ing in Lon­don then New York then Brazil, where he and his wife com­mit­ted sui­cide in 1942 – Gus­tave’s at­tempts to stand up to author­i­tar­ian soldiers per­haps stand for some re­sis­tance to the in­evitable.

One of the el­derly women he charms is Madame Desgoffe-undTaxis (Tilda Swin­ton) but she dies soon af­ter leav­ing his care. He trav­els to pay his re­spects, but the fam­ily are all wait­ing to hear the will, and are mor­ti­fied to hear from lawyer Ko­vacs (Jeff Gold­blum) that she has be­queathed to Gus­tave a valu­able paint­ing.

When it is re­vealed that Madame D was mur­dered, Gus­tave is ac­cused and ar­rested, but not be­fore tak­ing and hid­ing the “Boy with Ap­ple” paint­ing. With a nod to The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion, Gus­tave escapes a top se­cu­rity prison in a break led by Lud­wig (Har­vey Kei­tel) – a mar­vel­lously fan­ci­ful event, not least as Gus­tave and Zero de­bate in­con­se­quen­tial mat­ters when they should be get­ting far away.

Madame D’s son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) sends as­sas­sin Jopling (Willem Dafoe) af­ter Gus­tave and Zero. This se­quence takes them to a moun­tain monastery in search of the only per­son who can of­fer an al­ibi, Madame D’s but­ler Serge (Mathieu Amal­ric), fol­lowed by a downhill chase on ice.

A de­cent army of­fi­cer (Ed­ward Nor­ton) in­ter­venes, and Gus­tave is aided by a suc­ces­sion of fel­low concierges from other ho­tels (Bill Mur­ray, Owen Wil­son, Bob Bal­a­ban, Ja­son Schwartz­man). Zero falls in love with Agatha (Saoirse Ro­nan) and, even as the coun­try de­scends into war, at­ten­tion turns to the re­trieval of the paint­ing.

An­der­son’s bril­liant script is per­fectly in­ter­preted by Fi­ennes, an in­spired com­bi­na­tion.

Us­ing ob­scen­i­ties for comic ef­fect is cheap stuff, but it has to be said it’s done here to great ef­fect.

Com­poser Alexandre De­s­plat, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Robert D Yeo­man, and the team re­spon­si­ble for the mar­vel­lous sets, mod­els, and cos­tumes add to the over­all sense of people who care about their craft. It’s An­der­son’s no­to­ri­ous at­ten­tion to de­tail – not much is un­planned – that re­ally gives the film its feel, typ­i­fied by one vis­ual joke about a mas­sive door that’s a lit­tle clas­sic mo­ment in a film of great mo­ments.

Steve Par­ish

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