Sepia-tinged caper

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a cinematic curio, writes GEOFFREY EU

Published Thu, Mar 20, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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A PECULIAR blend of offbeat charm, oddball characters and unique visual style is what typically sets a Wes Anderson movie apart from the rest, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. In line with previous offerings such as The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012), the director's eighth film comes equipped with original thinking, witty dialogue and production values that put most Hollywood blockbusters in the shade. It doesn't always work, but there's no denying the fun to be had in trying.

This time around, Anderson sets his sights on a bygone era in Europe between the wars and a way of life in a vanished world. There are several grand dames in the story and the eponymous hotel of the title - regal, elegant and faintly mysterious before a sharp descent into shabbiness - puts in a star turn too, but the glue that holds the entire enterprise together is Gustave H, a concierge who wears powerful cologne and starched shirts while running the hotel with a meticulous style rooted in old-school ways.

The hotel sits on a mountaintop in a fictional Germanic country and enjoyed its heyday in the 1930s, when it was a vacation spot of choice for the rich and titled. The film is constructed as a story-within-a-story and begins when a writer (Tom Wilkinson) tells of his visit to the hotel as a young man (Jude Law) in the 1960s, when it was already an enchanting old ruin, with threadbare carpets and sloppy service standards.

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