Berlinale: The Grand Budapest Hotel, red carpet for Wes Anderson
by Bénédicte Prot
- Not content with merely marking the opening of the festival, the new film by this mischievous American director sends an impressive panoply of stars to parade across its first red carpet
In many ways, The Grand Budapest Hotel [+see also:
film profile] by American director Wes Anderson was thefilm which simply HAD to open the the 64th Berlinale (February 6-16): because this Anglo-German co-production came out of the Babelsberg Studios (where two other films in the official selection were also shot: Beauty and the Beast [+see also:
interview: Christophe Gans
interview: Léa Seydoux
interview: Vincent Cassel
film profile] and The Monuments Men [+see also:
film profile], which is to be screened out of competition); because it is an enjoyable comedy and devilishly well made; and because its colourful cast of characters has offered the opening gala an impressive first panoply of stars.
Within its walls, Anderson's Grand Hotel in fact witnesses a Ralph Fiennes in his Sunday best, delivering with deferential dandyism the best lines in the film, a very comical Tilda Swinton playing a rich 80 year-old, a perfectly vile Adrian Brody, a Willem Dafoe who couldn't possibly be more sinister... Not forgetting Edward Norton, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric and Léa Seydoux. Even Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, English actor Tom Wilkinson and Viennese actor Karl Markovics put in an appearance.
Anderson's film unfurls a festival of stories which revolves around several interconnecting tales. We learn back-to-front how they came to be a book, starting with a girl who is reading it in front of the author's tombstone, then with the author himself, first old, then younger, finally getting to Zero Moustafa, who actually lived the tale, when he was very young (Tony Revolori), when he was a bell-boy under the orders of the central character, the concierge Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes). It is all about a contested inheritance, a stolen painting, love and cream-puffs, all in a kind of Alpine Shangri-La almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world which is the luxury thermal hotel of the title. We get a glimpse of a few parodies of Nazis (the ZZ), though in these scenes, as in the rest of the film, lightness wins the day, never impaired by the idea of death: even when assassinated or clinging to the edge of dizzying precipes, the characters retain all their humour and remain true to the clear-cut personality each one represents.
In light of their unshakeable coolness, Monsieur Gustave's notion that even in the worst situations, one still finds a spark of humanity here and there has an ironic undertone: the characters and the situations that they find themselves in are so far-fetched that they do not speak at all to the human condition; rather, they belong entirely in the universe of cartoons, in which neither gun-shots nor death leaps have any real consequences – other than offering the spectator a few priceless images, beautifully executed. Although the film's initial proposition, which cites Stefan Zweig at the end as its main source of inspiration, is apparently to explore the tone of nostalgia for a past that no longer exists, based on an hotel now solitary and abandoned, the audience finds itself closer to the adventures of Scooby-Doo than Last Year in Marienbad. Any dramatisation is so carefully avoided that when the image returns of the girl who has come to read in the cemetery, it is with lightheartedness that one sees everything come full circle in this old rundown Europe, made completely cartoon-like in Anderson's playful hands.
(Translated from French)
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