Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Indie charmer Wes Anderson delivers the expected quirky goods with "The Grand Budapest Hotel", a picaresque adventure loosely based on the writings of beloved Austrian  author Stefan Zweig, who entertained in abundance with his novels, and yet, sadly, committed suicide in 1942, due largely to the rise of intolerance and Nazism.

Everything about this madcap yarn with dark chocolate around the edges is rendered with a miniaturist's detail and spun in confectioners' sugar.

A Zweig-ish author (Jude Law) is fascinated by a twinkly-eyed solitary man (F. Murray Abraham). The writer has the chance to interview him and the mysterious man tells his story.

The man is in actuality, the older version of a bellhop named Zero. (played by a jumpy Tony Revolori)

The man tells the story of a renaissance man Gustav H, (Ralph Fiennes) a Roald Dahl cad and the concierge of The Grand Budapest hotel which is an infinite universe unto itself: a kaleidoscopic Xanadu in its 1930s heyday, full of eccentric beings and beasts.

Gustav seduces the luxurious octogenarian Madame D. (Tilda Swinton)

A while later, she turns up dead without warning and Gustav takes to the home of his beloved, as a will is read.

Jeff Goldblum appears as Kovacs, a deputy sent to administer an inheritance of one famous painting to Gustav, but these wishes are blocked by Dmitri, (Adrien Brody) an authoritarian maniac. Gustav is charged with murder and in an elaborate Hal Roach style sequence, our daring player escapes and steals the oil painting. Dmitri dispatches Jopling (Willem Dafoe) a sable clad hitman with an underbite and fangs to retrieve the painting and kill in the meantime. Dafoe with his pale, creased and  long-chinned face is half vampire, half buffoon. His character wears a leather jacket with buttons that sound like gunfire and he has ringed knuckles studded with silver skulls.

The action satisfyingly whizzes by onscreen while the characters are full of all the wild verve and circumstance that we have come to expect in a Wes Anderson film. Some of the characters do seem a retread of "Moonrise Kingdom" (particularly Edward Norton as an anal inspector) and a few others verbally repeat signs or slogans that they see along the way, an Anderson trademark.

But although we might see these hallmarks and gags a mile away minutes before they occur, we are still swept away by this master's speed and space, his energy and his obsessive details.

Just the hotel alone, cloaked in snowy icing and shellacked by interior geometric carpet can be thought of as a meditation on Tin-Tin's Herge or a playful tribute to Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining". This plus a magnum of motley caricatures, make "The Grand Budapest Hotel" an engaging and fizzy tour.

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