With lustrous visuals and saccharine weirdness, Wes Anderson is more Wes Anderson-y than ever. 

 

The decadent pastel palace that is the ‘Grand Budapest’ sits high in the mountains of Zubrowka, a fictional corner of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), deals in fine taste; with an intimate knowledge of his older female guests, he serves a dying breed of Old-World bourgeois. Inspired by the author Stefan Zweig, Anderson creates a film of excesses, filled with quirky humour and charming witticisms, but not untouched by the terror and melancholy of the era.  

 

The wacky murdered-madam-stolen-painting plotline launches the film’s adventures and start-to-finish commotion. M. Gustave and Lobby Boy Zero (Tony Revolori) form an endearing partnership while cavorting around Europe’s rail system, breaking Gustave out of jail, and entering a high-speed ski chase. An all-star cast pervades the giddying action, from pragmatic pastry making Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) to dying heiress Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). Others in Anderson’s usual swathe of famous faces include Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray (of course). 

 

The coexistence of highly controlled imagery and dizzying action is just part of Anderson’s brilliance. The director’s now signature style is in full swing here: sweeping camera angles, exquisitely detailed interiors, obsessively symmetrical framing, and an endearing, stylised nostalgia. 

 

Broader themes of escape and escapism are hinted at in the endless running up staircases, scaling ladders, and general hightailing; beneath their wackiness, many characters are seeking refuge from the trauma-filled world in which the Grand Budapest Hotel serves as an extravagant fantasy sanctuary. Whimsicality is perhaps planted more firmly on the ground than in Andersons’ previous features.

 

With as many levels of nuance as there are rooms, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a beguiling, bizarre and utterly exhilarating experience.   

 

4.5/5 stars

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel is in cinemas April 10

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