• Golden Globe Awards

WES ANDERSON (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

“I have only been on one plane in the last two and a half year, which was three days ago, to get here and I already have a passage booked to go back to Europe this summer on a boat, so I really find any way to not get on a plane.” This was Wes Anderson last February in New York, telling the HFPA during an exclusive press conferences of one of his many idiosyncrasies. It was touching to imagine the ever youthful and preppy-looking 45 year-old Director returning back home to Paris where he now lives full time, aboard a transatlantic ship. An experience somehow entirely appropriate to the filmmaker’s own quirky cinematographic universe, that unique combination of neo-nostalgia and often off-beat situations and characters … A trademark of sorts which he has offered us since his first opus, Bottle Rocket, twenty years ago already.
Since then, the world according to Wes has been consistently original and enchantingly surprising, each time instantly recognizable. The Wes Anderson touch? A blend of dazzling inventiveness, playful fantasy, absurdest melancholy, some degree of permeating bitter sweetness mixed with the deliberate tendency towards symmetry in each frame, elegant slow motion camera moves, and a soundtrack where a forgotten song by Françoise Hardy or France Gall might be heard….
Like some of his generational peers – Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola or Spike Jonze – he has managed to stay true to himself, avoiding trends. Just remember his films from Rushmore (1998) to The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and The Life aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), from Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) to The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012). And, for those who can’t have enough, check out his Prada-produced short films and some of his commercials, all equal gems especially his hilarious and tongue-in-cheek American Express one where he plays himself…
The Grand Budapest Hotel, his latest has been the biggest hit of his career and got four Golden Globes nominations. Best film in comedy or musical, best director, best screenplay and best actor for Ralph Fiennes in a powerhouse performance as Monsieur Gustave, the resourceful mustached concierge of the eponymous establishment. Inspired in part by the works of Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig, it is a brilliant and colorful concoction taking place in the thirties, in a fictional Middle European country in and around the grand hotel. Anderson only discovered Zweig six years ago, when he read Beware of Pity. “And I had never heard of him before that, he admits. Then I read his great memoir, The World of Yesterday and so many great short stories. For Europeans it is sort of shocking that he is not better known in America, but it’s only in recent years that his fiction has been in print.”
Filming took place for its majority in the small town of Gorlitz in Germany, close to the Polish border. An abandoned department store was transformed and used for the interiors of the Grand Budapest hotel. A local baker provided hundreds of the mouth-watering pastries seen on screen. Anderson gave his actors some movie references to familiarize them with the mood he was going for, one of them being Sunshine by Hungarian director Istvan Szabo, coincidentally with Ralph Fiennes.
One of the great pleasures of Wes Anderson’s films comes from the casting of familiar actors belonging to his movie family. From Owen Wilson, whom he actually met in college back in Texas, to Bill Murray, Jason Schwarztman, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and Harvey Keitel. And the many devoted fans of the Anderson oeuvre have a weak spot for another regular, the bearded and turban wearing Waris Ahluwalia, a personal friend and jewelry designer who frequently shows up in his films. In Grand Budapest Hotel, new faces also show up, Jude Law, F.Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux and an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton under heavy make up. And young Tony Revolori who plays spunky Lobby Boy, a perfect find.
As for his next project, Anderson is still trying to possibly materialize an idea he doesn’t want to reveal much about yet, to be co-written with Roman Coppola, his partner on Moonrise Kingdom and The Darjeeling Limited. And he has just revealed he might return to the world of stop-motion animation with a film inspired by 1954 Vittorio de Sica’s The Gold of Naples. Tantalizing to say the least. Count on him to surprise us once again.
Jean-Paul Chaillet