The Grand Budapest Hotel: Signature Wes Anderson

by Robin Garcia

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_PosterWe are all fascinated by pretty colors that match and compliment each other, beautiful costuming, and scenic backgrounds, and so is Wes Anderson.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson’s eighth feature length film.  It is filled with dry comedy, curious dialogue, and lovable characters, as well as set in picturesque areas and background drops that are sure to delight and please the eye.  Just like in previous films Wes Anderson directed, he amazes us with the colors of the set design and costuming.  But is that the only valuable part of the movie; it’s exterior?  Absolutely not. 

To begin with the film was shot in 35mm, as Wes Anderson requested to his cinematographer, Robert Yeoman.  The film is not exactly widescreen; it has a boxy shape to it.  Everything is focused in the middle of the screen.  The cinematographer was nervous about making the film this way, but it ended up working out very well because it suited the mood, and character of the film.  Everything on set including the characters are perfectly placed.  All characters were placed evenly in the center of the frame during lengthy shots.  Wes Anderson’s crew worked especially hard for it since they had to manually assess with a yellow tape measure that the character was in fact centered in the middle.  On top of that several of the places Wes Anderson envisioned, simply didn’t exist.  So an incredibly detailed mock up of the Grand Budapest Hotel was made, along with several beautifully hand painted backdrops.  All that hard precious work paid off, and gave the film a memorable quirkiness.

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The editing that takes place in this film is minimal.  The film keeps it simple by doing basic cuts from shot to shot.  I love this aspect of the film because I believe that if the editing were any more complex than it is, it would take away from the film.  It would distract from all the little things occurring on screen.  Often repeated throughout the film are long tracking shots.  These shots work wonders for the film because they really grab the audience and show off all the beautiful work they’ve put into the set.  They also make things flow smoothly throughout the film, and make people wonder just how did they do that?  Another type of shot that is commonly repeated through the film is the whip pan.  This shot also helps the film achieve its wonderful curiosity and quirkiness  (whip pan is when the camera quickly moves to face another character, or area and lands perfectly still on the subject).

grand-budapest_2813768bNow, onto the color wheel – yes, every single little thing on screen at any given shot corresponds with everything else when it comes to color.  Wes Anderson is known for choosing a certain color pallet and sticking to that for his films.  In Moonrise Kingdom, the color pallet that he used was filled with vibrant oranges, yellows, greens, and the occasional use of soft pink.  He must have loved the look of pink on film because The Grand Budapest Hotel is covered in it.  The color pallet he sticks to includes, soft pinks, vibrant pinks, soft reds, light blues, rich purples, and the occasional use of a soft yellow, all together all the time!  The brilliance it takes to make all the colors work on set is amazing.  The use of colors makes you fall in love with the film, and makes the film memorable and unique.  It made my eyes want to just engulf the screen; it made my spine shiver, and it made me wish I had a great eye for interior design.

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-5Of course, as much as the art design is a signature element to a Wes Anderson film you can’t forget his unique use of dialogue.  The dialogue in this movie stands out virtually as character unto itself.  Although. each character has a distinct pattern and delivery in their dialogue, which makes them stand out from one another, it’s surprising how it all remains distinctively Anderson.  Some characters speak in quick patterns and muddle words together, and say curious phrases, while others are slower and have a darker outlook that comes out in their dialogue.  Over all I love and adore all the little bits and fragments of dialogue that are shared throughout the script.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 8.45.29 PMAnother unifying factor is the music.  The music used in the film ties everything together.  The orchestral music lets the audience know what time period they are in, along with what level of social class the hotel is associated with.  It is light, airy and moving.  At times there is a choir that creates suspense in moments where needed.  At other times there is the beat from a simple drum kit that keeps things going.   Undoubtedly, the music in a Wes Anderson film breathes life into each and every scene.  Slow music makes us feel what the characters are feeling in a sad scene, while adventurous and upbeat music makes us feel that moment of adventure that is taking place on the screen.

Now to move onto the most crucial part of a film, which isn’t set design, casting, characters, or even dialogue but the story.  Every one of those aspects listed can be perfect and beautiful, but if the story drowns within all this and gets lost then the film in its entirety falls apart.  The story illustrated in this film is interesting, and attention grabbing.  There isn’t a moment where the story is lost.  The audience is always reminded of what is at stake, and where the protagonist wants to get.  The film has a strong sense of story.  I enjoyed this film very much; because the screenplay itself is brilliant, and it’s evident that time was spent working hard on it because it shows on screen.

grand-budapest-hotel-willem-dafoe-adrien-brodyI will never forget when I first watched this film at the movie theater, I was excited and I had shivers going down my spine.  Over all I completely enjoyed this film and all of the aspects that it has to offer.  All the different bits and pieces that make the film are ones to enjoy and simply appreciate.  I recommend seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel, because it truly does have something for everyone to enjoy.

 

 

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel Shines

by Leif Erik Harty

GBH_Title_meteormermaidIn Wes Anderson’s latest cinematic adventure Ralph Fiennes stars as M. Gustave, the concierge of a hotel in the fictional European nation known as the Republic of Zubrowka. Joined by his newfound lobby boy, Zero (played by the relatively unknown Tony Revolori) he seeks to avoid detainment for the “theft” of his rightly inherited property. The movie follows their escapades across fictional alpine Europe in a time period designed to mirror that of World War II. And the effect shines like pure Anderson gold.

Grand-Budapest-Hotel-Actors-Talk-About-Director-Wes-AndersonFor the longest time, I have been wrestling with the issue of my favorite movie. It’s one of those questions that people ask pretty frequently, but I’ve always had trouble answering. The main reason I’ve struggled with it so much is that I thoroughly enjoy so many movies. I decided the best way to finally make a decision was to approach my thinking from two directions, effectively creating two sets of favorites. The first method revolved around how the movie made me feel, while the second method focused on my admiration for the mechanics of the moviemaking process (use of lighting, quality of editing, cinematographer’s preferences, etc.). Then it happened. I sat down to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel for the first time earlier this year and discovered a movie that hit both criteria out of the park. The narrative follows a grandiose and ever-winding path, but tells the majority of its story (like most good movies do) through exceptional visuals. I’ve walked away from each subsequent viewing with a continued sense of this movie’s masterpiece quality.

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Despite its fictional nature, it’s really quite an experience taking the 100-minute vacation to the Republic of Zubrowka. Any good movie will draw you in, but few movies transplant you quite the way Grand Budapest Hotel does. The hotel and all of its guests live a regal lifestyle, even through some very dark moments. In complete honesty, the hotel is a den of pomp and lavish living, but it never feels quite that way. The goal appears not to be to create a feeling of disgust within the viewer, but rather a feeling of fondness, which is exactly what happens. Throughout the ups and downs of the plot, there is always a fanciful touch to everything, which is part of the comedy. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but a large portion of the amusement comes from the persistent elegance in the face of blatant misfortune. In addition to its comedic value, the atmosphere is also just downright pleasant. However, it isn’t innately well done. The atmosphere is successful because of several technical aspects that work well together.

The Grand Budapest HotelCinematography is the first of these aspects that I’m going to touch upon. There are a few visual qualities that really set The Grand Budapest Hotel apart, the most pervasive being its thematic color. While it’s not necessarily unique for a movie to have a color theme, it is unique for that color to be primarily pink. Within the bulk of the movie, there are shades of pink everywhere. For the brief parts of the movie that take place in the late 60s and mid-80s, the thematic color is orange. Both colors are rather unusual, but they do a great job of constantly reminding the audience where things are in the overall timeline. The pink adds to the flowery feel of the hotel’s heyday, while the orange adds to the dull feel of the hotel’s declining years. The system works very well, but never makes itself overly present.

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL_426.jpgThere is also another visual achievement that succeeds by making its presence known. Films need establishing shots. They really do. It can be very disorienting to the audience if the narrative lacks any visual encompassment. I admire the way that Wes Anderson’s team decided to tackle such a standard element. There are a good number of typical wide shots, showcasing the outside of a building or something along those lines. However, there are also many wide shots composed in such a way that they take on a Charlie Chaplin-era feel. They’re actually rather hard to describe, but the most accurate description is that they make the scenery look like high quality backdrops. These shots, combined with slides separating acts and the occasional vignette, ingrain a golden-age-of-cinema feel within the movie. Visuals aren’t everything, though. The Grand Budapest Hotel would fall flat on its face without the aid of some excellent dialogue.

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Keeping in line with the elegant feel of the hotel itself, much of the movie’s language is quite fanciful. The narrative is full of metaphors and figures of speech too flowery for the average Joe to come up with, but it never becomes stuffy. In fact, things progress quite differently. In the same way that the film creates comedy by contrasting pomp with turbulent situations, it also contrasts the linguistically proper with the linguistically crass. The elegant language of the upper class is often broken up by a cruder, but equally colorful, way of speaking. Part of the movie’s R rating can be attributed to its crude language, but it isn’t overdone. It’s present just enough to create a very nice contrast and provide some variety, which is something this film has in abundance, especially in the casting department.

budapesthtelCatPeople don’t pay enough attention to casting. I have to admit that I fall into that group. Fortunately, this movie woke me up. The array of actors is pretty unique and it creates an interesting setup. For one, the list of notable actors is pretty lengthy. Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, to name just a few. The thing that particularly sets The Grand Budapest Hotel apart in the realm of casting is that many of the big-name actors receive only a short amount of screen time. At first, it’s a bit strange to see them in minor roles, but ultimately, it’s a nice twist on typical expectations. On the flip side, one of the leading roles is the lobby boy, Zero, played by the no-name Tony Revolori. The genius in having the unknown actor play such a key role is that he brings no baggage with him. The audience gets to experience him in a completely fresh way since he has no past characters for which people to connect him. The freshness of Zero’s character and the celebrity casting contribute to the film’s pleasant, but unique feel. 

In short, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fantastic movie. It tackles many familiar conventions with new thinking, makes great use of contrasting realities to tell a funny story, and pulls the audience into a world with more strength than many films could every dream of. I highly recommend it.