Wes Anderson may be the most aesthetic film-maker working today. I can’t think of anyone else who so artfully composes every shot, every look, every transition, and who seems to care so much about every tiny detail.
Until recently, this tendency had reached its apex with 2009’s painstakingly stop-motion animated Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr. Fox, which gave his creative control-freakery free rein. In 2012, arthouse film lovers almost exploded with delight at Moonrise Kingdom, although it didn’t quite work its twee magic on this reviewer.
Anderson’s new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, however, is the perfect confluence of exotic locations, richly eccentric characters, chocolate-box visuals and a nostalgia for a time that existed only in a particular kind of romantic European fiction. Surprisingly — considering how mannered it all is — the film turns out to be the funniest thing I’ve seen in the last six months. I wanted to click my fingers and command the projectionist to roll it again immediately.
Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is the all-powerful concierge at the resort that gives its name to the film, which is set between the world wars in a fictional middle European country that appears perpetually consumed by intrigue. When he isn’t wooing the grand dames and charming the old roosters who pay the bills, Gustave is training his enthusiastic young lobby boy, Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori), in the dark arts of patron manipulation.
When one of his favourite guests (Tilda Swinton) dies suddenly, leaving him a significant inheritance, Gustave is accused of her murder. This catapults him, Zero and a remarkable cast of characters played by the Anderson repertory company — including the likes of Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton and Willem Dafoe — into a hectic farce featuring prison escapes, a toboggan chase and a cake-strewn shoot-out in the lobby of the hotel.
Everything about the film is witty, fast-paced and charming — even when it is being kind of dirty (this is not a film for the whole family) — and Fiennes in particular demonstrates a capacity for comedy that has hitherto remained well under wraps. I suspect this will be a very big hit.[info]
April Film Recommandations
THE SELFISH GIANT (Clio Barnard)
3 April: Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s well-known fable, this modern story of two kids falling under the spell of a local scrap-metal dealer is one of the strongest returns from last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival.
NYMPHOMANIAC (Lars Von Trier)
3 April: In some territories, the self-pleasuring poster art promoting the notorious new Lars Von Trier is being re-created by local film reviewers. You will be pleased to know that this is not happening in Wellington.
NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL AUTUMN EVENTS
12 April: The only non-classic (although sure to be a modern classic) appearing in this year’s Autumn Events programme, Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises is likely to be his final film.
THE LEGO MOVIE (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)
17 April: Based on box office overseas, and the excited response to the trailer that has been playing for months, expect children of all ages to be breaking down doors to see this.[/info]