Monday, 24 March 2014
I don't know what sort of cream they put on you down at the morgue but I want some!
Yesterday, we went to see a work of camp genius. Ever since I first saw the trailer for it, I had been dying to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, and the anticipation was well rewarded!
With its incredible star cast (Jude Law, F Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Tilda Swinton are all present and correct, along with many other superstars of stage and screen who were previously unfamiliar to me) and amazingly lavish sets, backdrops, costumes and mood lighting, I haven't seen anything of quite this magnitude since Moulin Rouge or perhaps Gosford Park...
The plot is a tale of Ruritanian affairs, murder, mischief and mayhem all revolving around or connected in some way to the fictional "Mittel-European" hotel of the title, located in an equally fictitious principality called Zubrowka. Through the recollections of the now-elderly Lobby Boy "Zero" (Mr Abraham) in conversation with "The Author" (Mr Law), we are spirited from the "Cold War" near-desolation that has befallen the hotel to a world before the war, when decadent randy old duchesses and grandees swirled about the place in their finery, presided over by the masterful, precise and wildly popular (for his "extra-curricular services" as much as his job) M Gustave. Played to utter perfection by Ralph Fiennes, it is the benefits M Gustave is bestowed that finally cause him the greatest trouble, and lead to the farcicial events of the rest of the film - as the adoring Madame D (an unrecognisably made-up Tilda Swinton) bestows him a valuable painting, that her shady family want back.
Wrongly accused of the Madame's murder by her son Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis (a magnificently sinister Adrien Brody, "who...looks born to wear a hussar's uniform", as Guardian reviewer Andrew Pulver put it), and pursued by the police, the neo-"Nazis" and the brilliantly psychopathic hit-man Jopling (played with obvious glee by Mr Dafoe), the adventures of Gustave (prison escapes, madcap ski-chases, atmospheric mountain-top scenes and all) and his trusty sidekick Zero (as a young man, a perfectly deadpan Tony Revolori) are at once slapstick-funny and slightly disquieting, as the body-count mounts.
Needless to say, despite the sadistic efforts of Dmitri and Jopling - ignoring the level-headed appeals for calm from the will's ill-fated executor and cat-lover Deputy Kovacs (a suitably twitchy Mr Goldblum) - to dispose of our heroes, it all (well, almost all) comes right in the end, largely with the assistance of M Gustave's fellow concierges in the secret “Society of the Crossed Keys” (led by Mr Murray, doing his best Jim Broadbent impression) and Zero's plucky girlfriend, the confectioner Agatha (Saoirse Ronan); and the hotel in particular survives (albeit in vile 1960s drab orange hues by the time The Author pays a visit).
This is an utter masterpiece of a film, and one for which its director Wes Anderson deserves all the accolades for which he will no doubt be nominated.
The Grand Budapest Hotel