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GHB_7195 20130213.CR2Wes 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.


April Film Recommandations


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.


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.


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.


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