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Movie Review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' (2014) Directed by Wes Anderson

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No one crafts characters, worlds, and stories quite like Wes Anderson. In “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the director constructs each scene like a cityscape or portrait, filling his environments with lavish décor and hypnotic personas before incorporating in his sensationally rhetorical brand of dialogue. While the events that take place often seem random, nothing is arbitrary in the visuals. From the cycling aspect ratio and frequent camera pans to the careful positioning and quantity of people within the frame, everything is meticulously planned and organized. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” offers an even higher sum of participants than the director’s already actor-heavy oeuvre, and includes cameos from a host of brilliant performers that complement the exceptional central turns by Ralph Fiennes and newcomer Tony Revolori. Though the works of author Stefan Zweig may inspire the momentous dupery, the film is unmistakably Wes Anderson.

While staying at the once-grand Budapest Hotel, a young writer (Jude Law) happens upon the elusive owner (F. Murray Abraham), who subsequently invites him to dinner to recount the captivating tale of how he came to acquire the establishment. Beginning as a humble lobby boy at the Budapest Hotel, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) becomes the protégé of liberally perfumed and widely revered concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). When Gustave is accused of murdering a wealthy heiress and is sent to prison, Zero aids in his escape, forcing the duo to attempt to clear the manager’s name while outwitting both the policeman (Edward Norton) pursuing them and the ruthless killer (Willem Dafoe) tasked with silencing any who would reveal the truth.

If Tarantino is the contemporary master of cinematic dialogue, Wes Anderson is a close second - like a moderately cleaned-up version of Tarantino filtered through Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, and Sidney Buchman. A whimsical, consistently poetic vibe permeates every exchange, with heavy narration frequently drowning out the actual conversations of characters onscreen. Anderson is an absolute master of infusing quirkiness and idiosyncrasies into borderline slapstick activities, where each scene or chapter is a fresh examination of a ceaseless introduction to additional characters. Like the films of Caro and Jeunet, many of the personalities feel as if they’re being portrayed through a fisheye lens, skewed disproportionately into delightfully singular creations. Here, perhaps borrowing from Tarantino, the story is told out of order, with numerous stops through time, broken into chapters.

The story involves murder, an inheritance, tumultuous political climates, romance, a heist, a mystery, a prison break, and all manner of trekking across the picturesque countryside. But it’s the technical elements that share (or overtake) the spotlight, with Anderson’s careful framing an odd endeavor in nearly removing the three-dimensionality of motion picture, where actors move from side to side, converse face to face (with the camera cutting back and forth between speakers), and are centered in the middle of vast landscapes and environments, and where actions shift into frame in fixed positions. The structure of the story parallels the motif of frames and framing, with bookending raconteurs and narratives enclosing the retelling of the primary adventures.

Expressions communicate without speech, every movement is purposeful, background elements have specific meanings, and colors are vibrant and cartoonish. The attention to detail is simply phenomenal. From the first few seconds, it’s evident that each aspect is also tinged with humor - some from outrageously unrealistic concepts, but most from the subtle ridiculousness of words, images, and character designs. Instead of movie frames, the film appears comprised of a series of paintings, each one crafted with wondrous minutia and a recognizable cast having as much fun as viewers. Not a second is wasted on presenting a nearly perfect blend of visual artistry with a funnily fanciful fabulist.

- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)

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