Monday, 10 March 2014

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

21. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2013, dir. Wes Anderson)

10/03/2014


No matter how realistic a film purports to be, it only works if it conceals the constant decision making that went into its construction, and this even goes for those films, like Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" (1974), that "break the fourth wall" so often they end up falling through it - you cannot suspend disbelief if you let everyone see the joins. The ultimate example of this is in animation, where the entire world is created from scratch, as are the characters, and every individual move they make, right down to their supposedly involuntary breathing blinking.

The only Wes Anderson film I saw before "The Grand Budapest Hotel" was his 2009 animated version of the Roald Dahl story "Fantastic Mr Fox," and I cannot help but think that what Anderson learnt making an animated film carried over into live-action. His actors in his latest film move and talk with precision, no moment wasted, almost every breath loaded with meaning. Robert De Niro wouldn't submit to being treated like cattle, using Hitchcock's, and presumably also Anderson's attitude - Jeff Goldblum, for example, dropped "the" from a speech he makes as his lawyer character in the film, and was asked to replace it, but was able to suggest the cut was maintained, in order that the director's view would remain supported. The interview in which this is discussed is here: http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2014/03/07/jeff-goldblum-on-checking-in-to-wes-andersons-grand-budapest-hotel/
 
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" existed as an "animatic", a roughly-drawn storyboard-like film that animators would use to check how the eventual whole would work before the effort of (digital) ink and paint begins. There is no space for compromise, because all the creative decisions have already been made. There is much made of Anderson's films being made like a summer camp - all his actors in this film did stay in the same hotel in Germany - but it serves the purpose of bringing everyone together behind a singular vision.

I confess I hadn't seen any of Anderson's other films because I had been given the impression that they were impenetrable, but if he made the effort to make them they way he does, then I should make the effort to watch them too.

Two final thoughts - the film is so evidently a careful construction that the eponymous hotel looks like a delicious cake from the outside, and Willem Dafoe's henchman looks like Boris Karloff when in the right light...

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