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GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (director/writer: Wes Anderson; screenwriters: based on a story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness/inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig; cinematographer: Robert Yeoman; editor: Barney Pilling; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Ralph Fiennes (M. Gustave), Tony Revolori (Zero), F. Murray Abraham (Mr. Moustafa), Mathieu Amalric (Serge X.), Adrien Brody (Dmitri), Willem Dafoe (Jopling), Jeff Goldblum (Deputy Kovacs), Harvey Keitel (Ludwig), Jude Law (Young Writer), Bill Murray (M. Ivan), Edward Norton (Henckels), Saoirse Ronan (Agatha), Jason Schwartzman (M. Jean), Léa Seydoux (Clotilde), Tilda Swinton (Madame D.), Tom Wilkinson (Author), Bob Balaban (M. Martin), Owen Wilson (M. Chuck); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin/Steven Rales/Jeremy Dawson; Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2014)
It’s an eloquent, observant and mature comedy about the decay of an era.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom”/”Bottle Rocket”/”Rushmore”) directs and writes this delicious satire on 20th century totalitarian thuggery putting the kabosh on Old World manners among the upper-class. It’s based on a convoluted story co-written by Anderson and the artist turned writer Hugo Guinness, and inspired by the writings of the tragic Austrian popular novelist Stefan Zweig (1881-1942). It’s an eloquent, observant and mature comedy about the decay of an era. Though the film can be enjoyed by a mainstream audience, its weird humor, offbeat storytelling and numerous arcane references to movie lore through the ages keeps it more suited for the art-house crowd.

It’s told as a story within a story, that has in 1985 the novelist (Tom Wilkinson), the film’s narrator, relating how when he was a young writer (Jude Law) he stayed in 1968 at the once magnificent palatial mountain resort for the cultured wealthy in a fictional eastern European country — Republic of Zubrowka — remotely located on the top of a mountain. As the young writer stayed in the plush resort when it was in decline and it no longer attracted the elite crowds during the stagnant Communist period, in the empty hotel he got the opportunity to meet the enigmatic, melancholy owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), and hear him over dinner tell the fascinating tale of how he came to own the place after starting out as a lobby boy in 1932 when he was an illegal refugee from the war-torn Middle East. The young orphaned boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who literally sported a pencil-thin mustache became the protege of the cheerful, efficacious and eccentric concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes)–a man of class who would not go out in public without spraying himself with the sweet smelling perfume of L’Air de Panache. He also ran the hotel to perfection in an authoritarian way. While apprenticing as a lobby boy, Moustafa learned everything about the hotel business.

The gist of the story has the rich elderly Madame D. (Tilda Swinton, in heavy makeup), one of Gustave’s many elderly lovers, dying and leaving him her fortune and the priceless artwork of “Boy with an Apple.” That begins the trouble for the mysterious Gustave, who must dodge Madame D’s vengeful fascist son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and his ruthless black leather jacket wearing henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe), who wears 8 skull rings on his fingers that can be used as brass-knuckles. He must also dodge the fascist-like soldiers under the charge of officer Albert Henckels (Edward Norton). The soldiers arrest him when a butler (Mathieu Amalric) is forced to give false evidence saying Gustave murdered Madame D. While in prison, Gustave plans his escape with the heavily tattooed Ludwig (Harvey Keitel) and his gang, but his days are numbered as he acts foolishly heroic when crossing the border and tries to stop the fascist-like soldiers from detaining Zero because he doesn’t have the proper papers.

Others appearing in supporting roles are Jeff Goldblum as the guileless executor of Madame D’s will; Saoirse Ronan as the heroine pastry chef at Mendl’s, who marries Zero; and Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban and Bill Murray as close-knit concierges members of a secret society known as the Society of the Crossed Keys.

Its visuals are splendidly striking, the acting is superb and the pic has a profaneness, a nastiness and a rigorous artificial style I found soothing and thought went well with its nutty tale.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”