40. A Handful of Dust. The book is hilarious, the movie is not.
41. Homefront. It’s finally happened. We’re tired of Jason Statham.
* * * * *
Perhaps the word that best describes Wes Anderson movies is exquisite. They are beautiful, like well-curated museum exhibitions. The color palettes are carefully selected, as if the director had begun planning his movies not with notes but with fabric swatches.
The compositions are symmetrical.
The production design is elaborate (It makes you want to run home and redecorate).
The art direction is meticulous.
The filmmaking style is unapologetically mannered, that is, not particularly concerned with presenting life as it really is.
In short, the films of Wes Anderson are macarons. When the ingredients are fresh and mixed in the precise, perfect quantities, the result is delightful (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums). One miscalculation and the outcome can be precious, or cloyingly cute (We loathe Moonrise Kingdom with a passion. Granted, this is preferable to casual loathing). Balance must be achieved, or the audience goes home feeling slightly nauseous.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a lovely box of macarons, an affectionate look at a more civilized era where everyone could expect courtesy, decorum, discretion and consideration on the basis of shared humanity. The catch is that this more civilized era may not ever have existed, but the longing for it is universal (The same way people who have read a lot of Mitteleuropean literature are nostalgic for the Habsburg empire without ever having been part of it). The filmmaker acknowledges this by putting the story of The Grand Budapest Hotel in a frame within a frame within a frame: a girl in the recent past reads a book written by a former guest of the hotel, who recalls a conversation in the more distant past with a former hotel employee, who tells a story from an even earlier time.
Macaron is apt because while it may be argued that The Grand Budapest Hotel is no more than a confection, it is a wonderful confection. If we’re going to risk diabetes and heart disease by eating dessert, it had better be a sublime dessert. Otherwise we might as well spoon lard out of a vat.
Verdict: Enthusiastically recommended. We like the way Wes Anderson acknowledges the work of Stefan Zweig, whom we “met” through one of our all-time favorite movies, Max Ophuls’s Letter From An Unknown Woman.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is now showing at Ayala Cinemas.