While many films may come across as hollow and factory-made, there are times when you may come across a film that beams with a genuine passion from the filmmaker; a film where you can identify what the filmmaker is pulling from for inspiration, and just how much inspiration they have overall. Those were the thoughts that were in my head after seeing “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
As per the usual fare we’ve come to expect from Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” contains a star-studded cast, as we follow the exploits of hotel concierge Gustave H, played by Ralph Fiennes, and his protégé Zero Mustafa, played by relative newcomer Tony Revolori amidst a pastel 1930s backdrop that contains a tale of murder, theft, conspiracy and long-winded poetry.
The first thing I immediately noticed is that the film alternates between the 1.37:1 and 4:3 aspect ratios. The former was used for scenes taking place in the 60s and served as the framing device, with the latter being used for the majority of the film.
In addition to using the now outdated aspect ratio, this film evokes its “Old Hollywood” style through many sequences and compositions that feel lifted out of movies from the silent era. Comedic chase scenes, in which stop-motion animation is implemented to simulate manual under-cranking, is how filmmakers of the past achieved sped-up sequences prior to the digital era.
When it comes to the visual aesthetic, the composition, blocking and art design of each shot is in a picturesque style that is akin to a painting. This explains why there are a great deal of POV shots where the subject is placed in the center of the frame, as one would be in a portrait.
While it is well-executed visually, the story may leave a few things to be desired in the eyes of a casual movie-goer. It’s effectively a dark comedy that keeps all the characters and actions fairly subdued in order to deliver the story at a very fast pace.
There are also a few moments in the film that aren’t for the easily-offended. While few and far between, they are not crude in the fashion you’d see in films such as “This is the End” or “South Park,” but they are moments where the shock is part of the humor.
The best way I could describe this movie is that it’s not an outright comedy, but rather a “quirky” and artistic series of small tragedies delivered in a deliberately dry fashion.
The draw of this film is the visuals and few moments of comedy you might have seen in various trailers. I’d definitely file this under the category “highbrow” cinema, as cinephiles and Wes Anderson fans will probably get the most out of this particular experience.
If you’re in the mood for a movie that’s out of your comfort zone that won’t make you too uncomfortable, then I highly recommend “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” It’s a good film to help you get your feet wet in the often frightening waters of artistic cinema.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” gets a 4.5/5.