19 March 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

I fully expected to hate this, because I generally really don't care for Wes Anderson's movies. But I actually enjoyed it a fair amount, which is not to say that I don't have some complaints. But to start with the good: I found it a lot more visually appealing than his other films. I am not all that wild about his aesthetic most of the time -- the bright colors often seem vaguely garish and just kind of ugly to me -- but this time, I enjoyed it (perhaps the Eastern European-ness helped). More importantly, parts of it were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Ralph Fiennes was great. The preview led me to believe he would be a vaguely obnoxious affected fop for the entire film, but there was just enough mettle under the fabulousness to pull it off and make it a recognizably human character. He absolutely steals the show.

As per usual, however, I found the film completely unengaging emotionally. The story was basically one thing after another, and the randomness, absurdity, and over-the-top caricatured characters made it impossible to believe and thus hard to care. There is nothing really recognizably human to me in these films: it's all spectacle. Which is fair enough, I guess, but what I find obnoxious about it, particularly in something like The Darjeeling Limited or this movie, is the way a foreign culture turns into mere aesthetic backdrop: all style, no substance. World War Two? Excellent for vaguely comical run-ins with pseudo-Nazi soldiers in snazzy uniforms. They're not ACTUAL Nazis, they just look pretty much exactly like them, and speak German, and the movie is set during the time of WWII. But it's not like it really intends to faithfully capture anything about that time period, or take it seriously in any way. It's just a neat looking setting! Call me humorless and oversensitive, but to me that's not only ignorant and distasteful, it's also disrespectful to the millions who died during that period of history. It enraged me in Darjeeling Limited, and it pissed me off in Grand Budapest Hotel. If you want to create an ahistorical fantasy world, create one. Leave actual people and places out of it.

1 comment:

Camilleon said...

Yes, I saw it over here in Paris, and found it rather "fluffy" myself. Plus, although it was indeed funny, most of the really laugh-out-loud moments had already been revealed in the trailer...