The Grand Budapest Hotel ****

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Is there any director working right now who is more visually inventive than Wes Anderson? It brings a huge smile to my face just thinking of some of the characters and stories he has created. He has never sold out to take on a studio job. Every one of his movies are original and came from his mind. Well not including “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” but I think that Anderson and Roald Dahl were made for each other.

Now comes “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, which is his first thriller in a sense. It is a murder mystery crossed with a bit of Hitchcock done with the visual beauty we have come to know from Wes Anderson.

The story starts at the Grand Budapest Hotel, and recounts the adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel. At his side is Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune. All of this is told against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent during the wars.

The hotel itself is an absolutely marvelous creation in set design. Every room, painting, antique and the architecture are meticulously brought to life from the mind of Anderson. I also love the lavish costumes that are created to reflect the personality of each character. Willem Dafoe plays a hit man who dresses all in black, with a leather coat and brass knuckles. Fiennes wears a delicious yet elegant suit that simply oozes concierge. His lobby boy has the words “lobby boy” printed on his hat. You get where I am going with this. In other movies these would be clichés but in a Wes Anderson movie they are bold.

The cast includes the aforementioned Fiennes and Dafoe as well as Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Jude law, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Kietel, Owen Wilson, Saoirse Ronan, Tom Wilkinson and the great Bill Murray. You must be doing something right when you can assemble a cast like that for next to nothing. Murray has become a staple in Anderson’s films. My favorite character in this movie had to be Willem Dafoe’s Jopling, a relentless and ruthless killer.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a masterpiece from the most original mind working in the cinema today. The fact that none of his movies have ever truly broken out in to the mainstream is a benefit at this point. He is not a slave to big budgets provided by big studios. He can use quirky characters to examine real human emotions and desires all the while surrounding them with a truly exuberant production. I can’t wait to see what is next.

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