Over the past weekend I saw Wes Anderson's latest film, the Grand Budapest Hotel. Before I proceed, let me preface by saying that I don't normally watch a movie and then feel the need to go and blog about it. I love watching films, but I usually find the goods ones to be no more, no less than a really great piece of storytelling, peppered with attractive faces, hot bods, and cool cinematography. But this film, for whatever reason, did a complete number on me.
I was pretty much giddy through the entire duration.
I adore Wes Anderson.
I adore his work. I think of him as one of the most prolific, creative artists of our century. Notice how I didn't say: prolific, creative filmmakers. Nope. I said artists. In fact, I've plonked him in the category of "All Great Artists", among the Rembrandts, Carravaggios, Boteros, and de Koonings of our world. "How bold!", you might say.....how does this 40 something Texan, deserve such a place in the Grand Artistic Hall of Fame? Oh, methinks he deserves it. I'm not professing to be an expert by any means, but my experience and education make me feel competent enough to back this statement up if I needed to, and this blogpost is an attempt to do just that.
First of all, what makes a great artist? No doubt a tough question to answer, but after some thought this is what I came up with. A great artist is:
• Someone who breaks new ground and goes against the tide. (Wes Anderson? Check.) Among all the Ron Howards, Scorseses, Spielbergs and Tarantinos, comes a voice that is uniquely its own. The story, the telling of the story, the look, the feel, the design of the film - all of it is so very, definitely, Wes Anderson.
• Someone who enables us to transform our perception. (Check.) Just watch the movie if you don't believe me.
• Someone who creates an unforgettable experience. (Check.) Again, watch the movie.
• Someone who sparks curiosity and inspiration within us. (Check.) I'm talking about the kind of inspiration that changes the way you think....the kind that makes you itch to create something matched in its beauty and inspiration. Personally, I haven't felt this level of inspiration from a work of art in, well, forever. Now, that's inspiration!
• Someone who takes the magical and makes it tangible. (Check.) A genius artist is someone who tirelessly, diligently, habitually, works on his craft to make the vision in his head a tangible reality. Just imagine how painstakingly he plans and executes every shot. It kinda makes my head spin.
• Someone who has a great story to tell, and tells it with style and panache. (Check, check and check)
• Someone who can provoke strong emotions. (Check.) Did I mention that I came out of the movie crying?
Do you know how you can tell if a movie is great? It's during those inflight moments when a movie is playing on the airplane and you don't have your earphones handy. If the movie inspires you to scramble to get them or settle for watching the entire thing without sound - I think it's a pretty good guess that it's a great one. If that movie is playing without sound...and you'd rather keep reading your Kobo or take a nap - it's safe to say that you're not being captivated enough to want to watch. Imagine for a second, watching TGBH with the sound off. I'm guessing there would be a mad scramble for those earphones. I'm also willing to bet that a soundless version would be pretty darn lovely, regardless. Every shot is a masterful feast for the eyes, brilliantly composed, much like how an artist composes a painting.
So why do I feel such passion about his latest? Quite simply, because I walked out of the film utterly moved and inspired....by the color, the design, the artistry, the brilliance, the story. I could go on about this, but everyone's busy these days.....so instead I came up with a top ten list.
TGBH TOP TEN LIST
(why I think this movie rocked)
1. Every shot was eye candy.
First and foremost. I'm a visual person, so when things appeal to my eye it tends to put me into a very happy state of wonder. There was nothing out of place in this film. There was nothing that should not have been there, or that "oh well!" happened to end up in the shot. Everything was meticulously considered and placed.
When you look at the shots above, it becomes obvious just how meticulous Wes Anderson can be with each detail. Right down to the color; the angle, pose and proximity of the figures and their placement based on height; the lighting; the prop styling, etc. All things are considered.
2. The Story
He's an incredible story teller. And the best thing about his stories is that they masquerade as being simple. There are emotionally charged undercurrents to each of his films. And any content which is edgy, macabre, or emotionally heavy, is disguised with whimsy. (Might I remind one of the missing fingers??) This film, was by far the most moving and touching yet. I did mention I cried, right?
So, I've never been to the Grand Budapest Hotel. No one has. I've also never lived in the 1930s. But there's something inexplicably nostalgic about this film. Perhaps it's the 1970s bright orange and green decor, which reminded me of department store shopping with my mom. Or, perhaps it's the miniature sets that have a Sound of Music-type, dollhouse, feel to them. Somehow, the feel of the place and the story, both evoke a sense of nostalgia that's hard to logicise. (Remember the closet full of games in the Royal Tennenbaums? Anyone who grew up in the 70s or 80s knows exactly what I'm talking about. )
4. The Cast
Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson, F. Murray Abraham (OMG...Salieri!), etc.
Need I say more?
5. The Faces
Not since Fellini, has there been a cast of characters so unconventional in their beauty. It's an understatement to say that Wes Anderson doesn't go for the conventional, 'Hollywood' ideal of perfection. He spins 180 from there. In fact, I think it's safe to say that he deliberately seeks the quirky, odd, and unique. I adore the refreshing quality of this. Each face is of it's own unique design, much like the film itself.
6. The Moustaches
Okay hipsters, you ain't got nothing on these bad boys! The plethora of moustaches in this film were modeled after real, pre-WWII European style moustaches of the time, and then of course 'twisted' (pardon the pun) by the savvy of a hair and makeup artist, who's main job during production was to keep them waxed, preened, conditioned, and in check. So, who had the best moustache out of all of them?? I'd say it was this guy....
7. Someone in the film is named Zero.
8. Gustave H.
The character played by Ralph Fiennes, is a lovely man, filled with grace, composure, kindness, and politesse. And in the face of life's disturbances, he still remains gracefully, lovely.
9. Jason Schwartzman's hair
10. The Grand Design
This is the main reason why I think of him as one of the greats. Sure, his shots can seem somewhat formulaic, compositionally speaking - he likes what he likes, he knows what works, and he consistently sticks with it. But isn't it genius regardless? How many filmmakers use design in the way that he does, unfettered in it's consistency, rich in it's style and design? Few. In this film, each frame is a work of art that would translate beautifully, framed on a living room wall.
While writing this post, I had an idea. Someone, somewhere, needs to open a Wes Anderson - themed hotel. Just like how Johnathan Adler designed the Parker in Palm Springs, the world needs Wes Anderson to design a hotel. Any takers?? Just credit me with a discount. :)
I'll leave you with this piece of yumminess. The recipe and directions on how to make those cute little Mendel's cakes. Soon on the do to list will be making these bad boys. Stay tuned to see how that goes. OK....how many filmmakers actually include recipes in their repertoire???? Just saying.
And now, I've got to put this great inspiration to use. Off to the studio!