'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.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.