The Grand Budapest Hotel

Mar 19, 2014

It's  Wes Grand.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grade: A

Director: Wes Anderson

Screenplay: Anderson, inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig

Cast: Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient), F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus)

Rating: R

Runtime: 99 min.

by John DeSando

"He certainly maintained the illusion with remarkable grace.” About M. Gustave.

I marvel at how successfully Wes Anderson evokes an era in between wars, the early 1930’s of Central and Eastern Europe, in a mythical country, Zubrowka, with a whimsical nostalgia tempered by impending doom for that country and the world as it approaches the Nazis and WWII. In Anderson’s brilliantly ironic The Grand Budapest Hotel, he’s both light and grave, an admixture of longing for a time that maybe never was or had vanished long before its characters lost it.

M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the uber concierge of the titular hotel, is the martinet who runs the famous retreat yet the libertine who beds elderly ladies for fun and eventual profit. The will of a certain dowager, Madame D (Tilda Swinton), with whom he has been sleeping, serves as the catalyst for shenanigans by the family and friends as they angle for her inheritance and figuratively the evanescent world of moldy decadence.

All the while, moody music  composed by Alexandre Desplat evokes the loss of a time but the promise of a new world.  The crayon and pastel colors of diorama-like models are more the fantasies of active imaginations  than reality. In other words, Wes Anderson, inspired by Austrian Stefan Zwewig’s wry autobiography, The World of Yesterday, has it both ways: a love of times past and a vision of the future, seeded by characters that seem aware of the joys and losses accompanying the contract to live.

Although this opulent, decadent menagerie of time may never have existed, Anderson evokes a memory of it not that different from what we remember, for instance, from our youths—my memories are of the halcyon years immediately following WWII. My memories are grand if not real.  Anderson remembers like his main character, with illusory grace.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is worth a visit, but you can’t stay and never could have anyway.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at