Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel

March 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

Admire the charming and imaginative look and feel of director/writer Wes Anderson’s films over the last decade, but the Houston-born filmmaker wants everyone to know that when it comes to the projects he’s made over the years like “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” it’s the screenplay that is always the most important.

“Whatever the movie is going to be, it really comes from the writing,” Anderson told me during a roundtable interview at the SXSW Film Festival a couple weeks ago. “The actors invent their performances themselves, but they work with this script. A lot of it comes from what’s on the page.”

There’s plenty to work with from the pages of his new comedy caper, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which stars Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave, a devoted hotel concierge accused of murdering a hotel guest who bequeaths to him a priceless painting. Her death sets in motion a splendid chase through the snowy backdrops of a war-torn Europe. For “Grand Budapest,” it began with writing Fiennes’ character first, although Anderson isn’t quite sure how all that creativity really comes together.

“This movie started with one character, played by Ralph, and figuring what that character was like and figuring out a story for [him] and then, eventually, having an idea for a setting,” Anderson said. “All the visual stuff came after the script was finished. It’s kind of a mystery how anybody writes.”

Along with Fiennes’ role in the 2008 dark comedy “In Bruges,” Anderson cast him based off a play he had seen him in called “God of Carnage” and a 2006 independent film he starred in called “Bernard and Doris” alongside Susan Sarandon.

“[Ralph] also knows the person, my friend, who [Gustave] is inspired by,” Anderson explained. “He had a sense of what the real guy is like. It was the combination and also being around him personally.”

As for killing off beloved pets in his movies (a dog meets its demise in both “Tenenbaums” and 2012’s “Moonrise Kingdom”), Anderson quips. In “Grand Budapest,” he lets the pooch live, and instead proves that not all cats land on their feet when they hit the ground.

“Human actors often want to have a death scene to play,” he says. “So, in a way, it’s trying to share this opportunity with other animals. I’m just trying to write a good part for a cat.”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” screened as a part of SXSW 2014.

For more coverage of SXSW 2014, click here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

March 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody
Directed by: Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom”)
Written by: Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom”)

If filmmaker Wes Anderson simply isn’t your quirky cup of tea – the handmade look and feel of his sets, the subtle and oftentimes dry humor, the eccentric overall nature of his characters – not much is going to change your mind with his latest opus, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” For fans of his authentic and whimsical work who really don’t understand what everyone else is missing, a trip with Anderson to the fictional Republic of Zubrowka (because in Anderson’s world Hungary would be just too square) is like an inclusive tour of his 10-year-long career. From his 1994 film “Bottle Rocket” to his prior art-house success, 2012’s Oscar-nominated “Moonrise Kingdom,” Anderson seems to have taken elements from his past work to fashion together another satisfying creation. It doesn’t top some personal favorites (“Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”), but even Anderson’s middle-of-the-road entries should never be described as such.

In “Grand Budapest,” Anderson uses an assortment of flashbacks cutting from the 1980s to the 60s and again to the 30s to tell the story of how Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the hotel’s aging owner, came to take possession of his fine establishment after working as a lobby boy there decades ago. Under the tutelage of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes in a role unlike anything he’s ever done), a faithful concierge employed during the hotel’s glory days in the 30s, a young Zero (Tony Revolori) gets mixed up in family affair when Madame D (Tilda Swinton), one of the wealthy female hotel guests Gustave takes special care of (wink), dies and bequeaths to him a priceless painting much to the chagrin of her extremely serious family (Adrien Brody plays her irate son). When Gustave is accused of actually murdering Madame D, he and Zero set out on a mission to prove his innocence, which includes evading an evil assassin (Willem Dafoe) and the local police (Edward Norton plays Inspector Henckles). It also features an outrageous jail break that could only be invented in Anderson’s head.

As silly as Anderson’s past films are, “Grand Budapest,” with its crime-caper narrative, feels even more madcap than, say, a group of stop-motion mammals digging underground escape tunnels in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” The “Keystone Cops”- atmosphere, however, isn’t a bad thing to see in an Anderson film. If anything, it keeps the story moving swiftly and on edge. So, along with the pastel-colored designs, the dollhouse appearance, and detailed imagery, Anderson packs his film with kooky chases and vaudevillian-esque comedy.

Finding some of his vision from the work of German American director Ernst Lubitsch, Anderson can take the most random film references and styles and build on them to mold his own cinematic flair. It might feel typical to those who can’t differentiate between Anderson’s more entertaining albeit mature storytelling, but there are plenty of new nuances in “Grand Budapest” that continue to elevate his filmmaking charm and spark more artistic inspiration.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” screened as a part of SXSW 2014.

For more coverage of SXSW 2014, click here.