Opinion: A quirky caper that is one to check into

Film review pix 6/3/14 Film review pix 6/3/14

Damon Smith
Sunday, March 9, 2014
10:52 AM

Why you should watch the new film The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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As a two-time Oscar actor nominee for Schindler’s List and The English Patient, and a director in his own right with the acclaimed screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and the recent The Invisible Woman, in which he played Charles Dickens, Ralph Fiennes is able to appreciate both side of the camera. His latest role sees him working with the distinctive visual style of Wes Anderson, director of The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr Fox, on The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson wrote the part of Monsieur Gustave H, the fastidious concierge at the heart of the film, with the actor in mind.

Monsieur Gustave H is a character of many contradictions. How did you see him when you read the script?

Gustave is insecure, vain and needy, as it says in the script, but he’s also a very fastidious man who has a strong sense of principle rooted in this idea of how you look after people. It is a great part on the page. He is a man of innate confidence, but he also has got little vanities and is overly fastidious, perhaps, about some things and has neuroses about smelling nice all the time. He needs to have someone loyal by his side.

Gustave’s paternal relationship with young Zero Moustafa, whom he selects as a potential protege in the never-ending battle against the coarseness of the world, is at the heart of the film…

To Gustave, Zero is an innocent, inexperienced in the ways of the world and in need of instruction. But they ultimately become equal brothers-in-arms.

Wes Anderson has a way of seeing the world that is one-of-a-kind. Is that something you have to buy into?

His films always have this idiosyncratic lightness of touch inside which lie strong themes and emotions. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes has created a caper comedy with disguises and chases and escapes, yet there’s always that bittersweet undertone that is so distinctive. It’s an unusual blend that no one else can repeat because it comes from inside Wes, from his personal sense of humour and perception of the world.

His visual style is very fastidious. It must be demanding for the actors?

He is exacting in a very positive way. He’s always refining a moment until it has just the right feel, the right lightness. Speed of delivery is something he really values because this kind of material needs that kind of liveliness. Ultimately, he created his own made-up time and world where people are braver, more principled and have more fun.

Is it true the Budapest Hotel was actually filmed in an old shopping mall?

I was completely amazed about it. One corridor, you can shoot at different angles and it looks like lots of corridors. I love all that stuff and one of the great pleasures of this was there were a lot of old tricks of the trade. Wes loves that stuff and takes a childish delight in creating an effect cheaply.

• The Grand Budapest Hotel is out now

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