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Ashes and dioramas

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  March 28, 2014

With all these random goofs nestled alongside imagery and intimations of tremendous historical gravity, it’s a small miracle that The Grand Budapest Hotel doesn’t suffer, at first blush, from chronic tonal whiplash. A second viewing allows Anderson’s greater achievement to blossom. In the image of both M. Gustave and its titular hotel, this is a film about trying to salvage relics, just as they all appear to be doomed. Some — paintings, statues of religious figures, a museum hall of knight’s armor — are physical. Others — pan-European bonhomie, pansexualism, the intellect’s valorization of culture, the dandy’s pride in appearance — are mere principle, and possibly extinct already, rendering Gustave a relic himself. Using an array of self-reflexive techniques (callbacks to cast members from previous films, dazzling experiments with aspect ratios and lighting shifts, Alexandre Desplat’s tremendous score), Anderson inserts his system of references into a historical moment already freighted with its own. It’s a bold and rather curious conceit, but one replete with unique insights on cinematic mediation and historical memory.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL | directed by Wes Anderson | released by Fox Searchlight Pictures | 100m | opens March 28 at Nickelodeon Cinemas

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