'The Grand Budapest Hotel' has old-world melancholy

'Budapest' stars Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton.

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Ralph Fiennes (l.) as concierge Monsieur Gustave and Tony Revolori (r.) as Gustave’s protégé, Zero Moustafa in a scene from the film 'The Grand Budapest Hotel.'

Wes Anderson’s new movie, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is a higgledy-piggledy tutti-frutti concoction that also has its share of old-world melancholy. (It recently won top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.) Set between 20th-century world wars in a series of flashbacks within flashbacks in the imaginary republic of Zubrowka, its centerpiece is the eponymous hotel and its renowned concierge Monsieur Gustave (a superbly brittle and dandyish Ralph Fiennes). Gustave’s protégé, the “lobby boy” Zero Moustafa (played as a young man by Tony Revolori and as an adult by F. Murray Abraham), is as much an enigma as Gustave.

The universe Anderson puts before us, spanning the hotel’s glory days and its subsequent cryptlike dilapidation, is peopled mostly with actors from his stock company: Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, and many others. His color palette is startlingly otherworldly, as are his trademark cinematic flourishes: the frantic tracking shots, the stop-motion chase scenes filmed with miniatures and dolls. Anderson makes hermetically sealed fantasias. What’s surprising here is that, for all its enforced artifice, the film exudes a sadness that doesn’t disperse when the lights go up. His dollhouse is wetted with tears. Grade: B+ (Rated R for language, some sexual content, and violence.)

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