Olde Piano roll please. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a self indulgent, quirky extravaganza teetering on the cusp of becoming a silent era soap opera for the senile. Unfortunately sound is available and used infinitely to elaborate through near constant voice overs reporting what is obvious, foretelling what further abuse the characters and viewers will be thrust upon.
A historical yarn told in a relentless Instagram square aspect ratio. This raised my rankles immediately as the black barred side of my wide screen 65″ led oozed its need to be used. Welcome to the world of Instagram cinema. May I delete this or does it only last seconds as on my phone?
A demanding hotel concierge Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) and his faithful lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) run the gamut of ludicrous predicaments ranging from jail house breakouts to evading ominous Gestapo figures of rage and stupidity in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. Zero tells the tall tale in his later years. It reads like a backwards pop up book. I feel like the pages could have easily been ripped apart and an early nights rest taken.
All the characters in BUDAPEST are shallow one dimensional figures drawn from the silken screen of the silent era. Despite the lengthy rhetoric spewed by its protagonist, the prolonged agonizing sophomoric philosophy used as a prop to transpose a gilded con man into a faithful guard of gentlemanly ways, only to be shot and killed for saying one word too many. Fiennes glib skills cannot save Gustave from being simply irrelevant and the storybook trite as he pronounces his decree on all that enter his life. Far too many words escape his mouth until shame binds it and mere expletives suffice.
It’s all incurable quaint but never funny or dire. If I were the most even minded person in the world or straddling a rocking chair in the mid west in my 80’s this would be my favorite movie as it is charming in it’s ability to frighten none nor threaten to create too much laughter that would break a blood vessel or burst lung. No heart attacks will be had and you can fall asleep to the gently waves of nostalgia soothing your brainwaves into a quiet death.
Other characters are such rudimentary characitures as to be almost insulting. The horrible killer with sharpened teeth, so diabolical in nature yet does he never illicit fear. His victims dead bodies usually pop up as old pictures like the Plumber in the Kitchen with a Fork.
The conniving son of a dead mother is a flash back to the man who ties a women to the railroad tracks. Black hair, thin and fixated on screaming obscenities.
Every actor that steps into the film immediately becomes a suspicious cardboard cutout, wide eyes glaring from under their masks. Waiting for their cue from off screen to walk off screen.
The cast is impeccable and it’s shocking to see these actors animate their puppet roles so seriously. Confounded between a reluctant smile at the ferocious nature of actors at work to the painful angst of watching the lavish sets as obstacle courses for mice chasing old cheese.
Boy with an Apple is a painting left to Gustave when one of his elderly lovers passes on. Her enraged family set upon Gustave and his friends with ferocious appetite. The film settles around Gustave and Zero running in circles like Woody Allen avoiding a prostate examination afer reading about cancer in men over 50. See, that was kinda funny, BUDAPEST not so much.
Dark ominous screen vignettes clinch the visual symbology of the silent era of film and Anderson even goes so far as to have words appear on the screen for no apparent purpose other to make certain those who are deaf may feel catered to, despite being able to see exactly what the words are referring to, or to thrill himself with a nimble cleverness missing the entire film.
BUDAPEST is neither ever funny or truly serious. It also fails dismally as a satire. It’s comical only in the sense that it is absurdly disastrous in depicting a modern day Laurel and Hardy film without any real humor relevant to the year the film was made.
Entertaining as a poor stage play would be in the 50’s mimicking old burlesque. Anderson so filled with his own astute observations of what others have already discarded as trivial and redundantly unoriginal. BUDAPEST fails on every level, it’s leering cleverness is heavy handed and often scenes feel reduced to hand shadows and bad effects staging.
And after all the weaving and wobbling, Zero’s beloved wife dies feebly and almost without reason, the voice over echoes over the mountains. Yes life is unfair and unconnected from human needs or sad wants. Once that premise is proven, it renders the trivial nature of BUDAPEST far more significant than before.
All that one accomplishes in life is meaningless because in the blink of an eye you are dead. Is this not even more reason to not watch BUDAPEST? In fact as cinema becomes nothing more than the reiteration of past films, BUDAPEST becomes the poster child for how not to waste your precious time.
Yet, to stay within the province of the spirit of things.
I am afraid that I must ask for Wes Anderson’s retirement, to be effective immediately if not sooner. In fact if it can be made retrograde to before this movie was made all the better. I will add the names of those injured by the film as proof of his ineptitude and hope that future generations will not succumb to the propaganda that led me and mine astray into the waiting arms of this charlatans fortress of manipulations and maniacal disposition for the absurd. I object to the twaddling and reduction of humans to mere objects for decapitation. The senseless abject mockery of war time subject matter in a flippant and crude manner for ones own amusement, is frankly Sir in poor taste. Or is that the silver spoon in my mouth?
Let this be a warning to all others so inclined to create such a vestibule of pomp chicanery. One may be clever to those not in the know, but earnest self indulgence will never replace true creative powers sprung from a mind who never lets tomfoolery from the past be mistaken as a present ingenuity.
Good day to you, Sir.
( I promptly walk off and board my elephant that appears from nowhere, wearing snow shoes and slowly ride off into the sunset chased by golden females as we all die in a holocaust of fire racing over a cliff, but geez, were we happy! )