(Wes Anderson, 2014)
With every film, no matter where or when they're set, Wes Anderson only gets more...Wes Anderson.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fantasia of old Europe, set in the fictional Central European country of Zubrowka in the early 20th Century. Only that story is a story within a story within a story, of course. That story is told in flashback by the elderly owner of the titular hotel, Mr Mustafa (F Murray Abraham) to a writer (Jude Law) in the 1980s, when the establishment is fading and somewhat chintzy. The key character in this tale is Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the hotel's celebrated, eccentric concierge during its glory years. He sleeps with a series of wealthy elderly women guests, guaranteeing their continued custom, and the death of one Madame D (Tilda Swinton) kicks off the plot.
She leaves Gustave a priceless painting, her son (Adrian Brody) objects, and with his lapdog (Willem Dafoe) up to no good, Gustave is imprisoned for the murder of the old lady. This leaves his lobby boy protege Zero (Tony Revolori), Mr Mustafa's younger self to help with his escape, while he tries to keep the immense hotel running and enjoy his new relationship with lovely baker Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).
This allows a rambling, often hilarious story which includes prison break elements, chases, love scenes, gunfights, and loads of character comedy.
As usual with Anderson, the visuals here are impeccable; beautiful, exceptionally detailed, fabulously composed and textured. The whole thing looks like it was shot inside a faberge egg, such is its lushness and depth of colour. Anderson plays with aspect ratios depending on time period, and Alexadre Desplaat's score buoys the whole thing enjoyably along.
It is perhaps Anderson's funniest film. Fiennes is hilarious as the camp, knowingly suave Gustave, but Anderson is unafraid of giving him jokes based upon this plummy-voiced symbol of civilisation swearing suddenly, and there are some brilliant sight gags alongside the usual deadpan drollery. The likes of Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray take small roles, giving the film a rich, layered feeling.
It even resonates in a way not always true of Anderson's work. The ending is melancholic but fitting.
If that ending and resonance doesn't linger long afterwards, other elements do: that beautiful palette, some of the performances, and that unique Anderson tone.