The Grand Budapest Hotel
Directed by Wes Anderson
Review by Angus Luff
It’s interesting to see that the film directors most of us know as talented and groundbreaking still have people who hate them, as much as people who love them. People criticize Quentin Tarantino for his use of violence in his films. People criticize Martin Scorsese for making films covering similar topics and themes. And people criticize David Lynch for his unconventional non-linear way of telling stories. But no other director is as equally hated as he is celebrated than Wes Anderson. His style is so specific and recognizable that he’s practically created his own genre, and you either love it or hate it. I, for one, am compelled by and interested in his films, especially his newer work. His 2014 film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, feels the most alive and rich with his unique style, and he creates something truly special, even if it will turn off a lot of viewers.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a period comedy about M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge of the legendary hotel, and his friendship with the lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revoloti). When one of Gustave’s most loved guests, Madame D (Tilda Swinton), passes away he and Zero learn at her funeral that Gustave has inherited a famous, sought-after painting called “Boy with Apple.” Madame D’s son Dimitri (Adrien Brody) isn’t too pleased with this information, however, and does whatever he can to get the painting, while Gustave is wrongly accused of being Madame D’s murderer. We follow Gustave and Zero as they try to keep “Boy with Apple” safe, protect Zero’s love interest Agatha (Saorise Ronan), keep their names clear and prove Gustave’s innocence.
As you can tell, this film has a lot going on, especially for something that’s under two hours. But the chaotic plot unfolds in such a controlled and warm presentation that it’s never too crazy and never too slow. Everything looks like a dollhouse or a model city so we are immediately aware that this is a fantasy rather than an actual recounting of events. We aren’t taken aback when things get more and more cartoonish, because we already are in a state of suspended disbelief. Because it is a fantasy, Anderson has more room to make the darker and more violent parts of the film still light and even comical. This is probably his funniest film. Fiennes steals the show – he is cunning, sly and fast-talking – but at the end of the day, he is still wholesome and his bond with Zero is absolutely lifelike, and their chemistry is impeccable.
Visually this film is a treat. Its colours of light pink and yellow, mixed with the dollhouse look, give the film even more charm. Attention to detail is found in the aspect ratio changes and the use of different cameras, making this film rewatchable and more interesting than being filmed in the typical Hollywood style. There’s a lot you might miss the first time that you can catch on a second viewing, making it rewarding and worthwhile.
As mentioned, some people hate Anderson’s films; they say he has style over substance, his style is annoying or his films are too similar. But with The Grand Budapest Hotel, the style is the substance. The plot doesn’t necessarily matter, it’s the atmosphere and tone that make this so amazing and fresh. If you took this same film and gave it to a random drama filmmaker who has no vision, the fundamental reason it works will be stripped away. The characters are great but the visuals, backdrops, music, sets, stop motion and models are what turn this cartoonish, farcical story into a unique, fresh, charming and highly joyful experience. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the best films in recent memory, a true knockout. Every aspect works and fits together to create a satisfying masterpiece of filmmaking.
Running time: under 2 hours
Available: Disney +
Angus Luff is a student at Glebe Collegiate. He grew up in the Glebe and is obsessed with movies.
Directed by Florian Zeller
(UK, France, New Zealand, 2020)
Review by Barb Popel
Some films elicit the viewer’s sympathy for a main character, but it’s a rare film that elicits the viewer’s empathy. The Father is such a rare film.
As we age, or as we watch a senior relative or friend descend into dementia, a kind of low-level terror can overtake us. What would it be like to feel our mental capabilities diminish, to lose our memories, to not recognize loved ones, to forget how to do simple tasks?
In The Father, octogenarian thespian Anthony Hopkins shows us, in excruciating detail, what it’s like as his character’s perception of reality fractures. We experience what he, the character Anthony, experiences as he slides deeper and deeper into a fog of forgetfulness, a scrambled perception of time. But at first, everything seems fine. We see his daughter Anne, played with exquisite nuance by Academy-award-winning Olivia Coleman, making her way to Anthony’s spacious elegant apartment in an upscale London neighbourhood. Their conversation seems normal, though prickly, because Anthony is used to being in charge and has done something Anne is upset about. He fought with his latest caregiver, Angela, who now refuses to return to the apartment. Anne needs someone to care for Anthony as she tells him that she’s planning to leave for Paris to live with a man she has fallen in love with. So now she must find a replacement for Angela. He bristles at the thought…he doesn’t need a caregiver! He can manage just fine by himself. But in the next breath, he whines, “You’re abandoning me! What’s going to become of me?”
When Anne introduces Anthony’s new nurse Laura (played by Imogene Poots) to him, he’s charming and urbane, but very soon slips into confusion and irritability.
He’s certain his watch has been stolen, though it’s he who has hidden it. The search for his missing watch obsesses him. It’s an apt metaphor for his increasingly muddled sense of time. We, the audience, are confused, too. Has an hour passed? A day? A week? Haven’t we heard this dialogue before but from different characters?
As Anthony’s mental state worsens, we see exactly what he’s seeing. Furniture and pictures change, some disappear. The colours of the walls change. The layout of the apartment shifts subtly. People we don’t know appear in the apartment. Is that man Anne’s husband? Does she have a husband? The man says he’s Anne’s husband and that this is their apartment, not Anthony’s. Anne hasn’t gone to Paris; Anthony still sees Anne every day…but wait! That woman (Olivia Williams) says she’s Anne and is wearing Anne’s clothes, but she’s not Anne! What is reality?
The Father is Florian Zeller’s debut as a film director. He and Christopher Hampton adapted Zeller’s 2012 stage play for the screen. Zeller has said that he wrote the screenplay with Anthony Hopkins in mind. Hopkins’s performance is possibly the best of his long and distinguished career. The fact that he won an Oscar as Best Actor in 2021 is no surprise. The script won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, the film was nominated for Best Picture, Coleman was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and the Production Design and Film Editing were also nominated in their categories. I think their exquisite contributions deserved Oscars, too. It was my favourite film of 2020.
The Father is a deeply affecting film that will stay with you for a very long time.
Running time: 103 minutes
Available: Amazon, Cineplex Store, Google Play, Microsoft, TIFF Digital Lightbox and YouTube
Barb Popel has lived in the Glebe since 1991. At university in the early 1970s, she was introduced to the joys of film. She’s been an avid filmgoer ever since.
A Thriller for the ages
Review by Iva Apostolova
IMDB classifies Old as a drama/mystery/thriller. This 2021 movie is directed and co-written by the talented Indian-American M. Night Shyamalan, who directed and wrote the 1999 The Sixth Sense (remember Bruce Willis when he had hair and the creepy kid who sees dead people?), the 2002 supernatural thriller Signs, and, recently, the 2019 critically acclaimed Glass (the sequel to the 2016 Split). So, mystery/thriller is kind of Shyamalan’s thing. The guy has practically invented the genre! Unlike some of his earlier chef d’oeuvres, though, this one features a truly international cast with Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps in the leads. The bouquet of British, Australian and American accents gives the movie its unique tone, matching the rich and luscious fauna of the beautiful Dominican Republic where it was filmed. And to top it all off, Shyamalan himself makes a cameo appearance as the hotel van driver.
The storyline follows a family of four (Krieps and Bernal as the mom and dad) from the moment they arrive at an exotic resort in the hope of spending one last vacation as a family before the inevitable separation hanging over them like a Damocles sword. They get tipped off by the hotel manager about a hidden gem of a beach inside an inaccessible nature resort on whose backdrop the rest of the movie takes place. Right off the bat, the beach gives off weird vibes, to say the least, and the fact that other families end up there sets everything up for a great psychological thriller. The plot makes a couple of twists and one big sharp turn at the end that will give even the experienced thriller fans a run for their money.
I saw the movie in the Cineplex at Lansdowne and although the rumour on the street is that it will soon be released for streaming, I have to say that the 9 by 27 metre screen coupled with the UltraAVX sound system make the stares, the dead bodies and the suspense music so much more meaningful and frightening!
While I would give the movie higher than the 6.0 it got on IMDB (c’mon, it deserves at least 6.5!), I do understand where some of the reviewers are coming from. The plotline is not as tight as it could have been. Certain characters seem superfluous and slightly forced, and I could certainly have done without the teenage pregnancy mid-movie. After all, moral judgment is not really art’s forte. But make no mistake, the movie will delight you with its unexpected developments and superb camera work.
Running time: 1 hour and 48 minutes
Available: in theatres everywhere
Iva Apostolova is a professor of philosophy at Dominican University College.