The Grand Budapest Hotel ★★★★
Premiere 9.00-11.00pm C4
By far the most commercially successful of Texan auteur Wes Anderson’s diligently and delightfully idiosyncratic films, The Grand Budapest Hotel ought to be a perfect way-in for anyone not yet au fait with his work. This means a prim, often symmetrical way of framing and telling a story, with propensity for eccentric characters who appear to exist in hermetically sealed worlds.
That said, I’m not sure he’s a film-maker you gradually warm to. You’ll either be instantly smitten by this multi-storied tale-within-a-tale, told in and around a grand hotel in a fictional Mittel-European state or you won’t. Anderson refuseniks usually cite the remoteness of his picture-book style in the case for his artistic prosecution. I personally find the obsessive-compulsive way he places characters within the frame utterly beguiling, often shooting them full-face or side-on as they speak and linking scenes with deadpan narration or embroidered title-card.
His films (variously co-written with Owen Wilson, Noah Baumbach, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and in this case British artist Hugo Guinness) are funny, too, aided by a whole parade of nominally serious actors giving unique comic performances in a light operatic style. Here, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe and Tilda Swinton all appear in a partly German-financed and mostly German-shot production, which is typically swollen with minor characters.
While film students may furrow their brows over the way the aspect ratio changes to denote each of the three timeframes between 1932 and the present day, casual viewers can simply thrill to the sheer manic energy on display. Fiennes proves a fine physical clown when his moustachioed concierge is framed for murder, making a frantic dash through the lobby when Norton’s inspector calls. Gifted composer Alexandre Desplat perfectly reflects the wintry otherness with his Oscar-winning score played on a Russian stringed instrument, the balalaika.
A baroque, sumptuously colourful, hyperreal visual experience, this is lit more like a painting than a movie (all hail Anderson’s long-time cinematographer Robert Yeoman), except when it drains to stark black-and-white at a jarringly grave juncture. It’s the grandest of Anderson’s eight features and yet replete with miniature model work that revels in its artificiality.I know, I am a shameless Anderson lobbyist, but if you’re going to check in, this is a luxurious place to start.
For more of today’s free-to-air films, see our TV listings