People tend to be split on the work of filmmaker Wes Anderson, folks either don’t care for his unique, inventive worlds, or they’re all in on them. I, am the latter, and have been ever since “Rushmore” came out in 2002, though I don’t think I fully fell in love with his work until “The Life Aquatic” in 2004. The Criterion Collection has recently issued a wonderful new blu-ray of Anderson’s 2014 film “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which I hadn’t seen since it first hit theaters.
“Grand Budapest” features many from familiar faces, several from the “Wes Anderson repertory” in its large cast. Throughout the course of the film’s 100 minutes running time you’ll see: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, William DeFoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, and Jason Schwartzman. Set In Europe, largely during the 1930s, “Grand Budapest” tells the story of a charming concierge at an opulent hotel who is soon framed for the murder of his lover, a rich old dowager who has left him the most valuable possession she has, a priceless painting called “Boy with Apple.”
But her family wants to fight this, already having a certain distain for the concierge. So with her heirs on his trail, and the police chasing him for murder, our concierge along with his protege and lobby boy, soon find themselves off on a wild caper across scenic lands while political upheaval begins to bubble up all around them. This is such a delightful and fun film, and seeing it again after six years I was so thrilled to find I enjoyed it as much as I did when it came out.
The feel of this film in many ways has a certain flare that, to my sensibilities, harkens back to a little bit of Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder, with a dash of Preston Sturges since Anderson often uses a “repertory” of actors who appear frequently in his work. Perhaps it’s that old world Europe vibe that envois a feel of Lubitsch, with a hint of Wilder coming from the caper nature of the film’s story. It does take place over a series of flashbacks, with the 1930s portions shot in the traditional Academy film aspect ration of 1.37:1, the format that every movie was made in until the mid 1950s.
This new blu-ray from Criterion was supervised personally by Anderson, and the movie looks absolutely fantastic, with its lovely and vibrate colors and hues coming through beautifully. Bonus features include a new audio commentary with Anderson, alongside filmmaker Roman Coppola, critic Ken Jones, and Jeff Goldblum. There’s a new documentary on the making of the film, and new interviews with the cast and crew. Also included are video essays from 2015 and 2020, along with behind the scenes footage, special effects tests, and other test footage. There’s also a packet of print material, including essays, a double sided poster, and other assorted material from the film.
Criterion never fails to put together a great package for any film, and they’ve taken a recent film loved by many and given us even more to dive in alongside it. For fans of the film, this new release is a no brainer. A wonderful film that’s just as delightful as when it came out, in addition to be a feast for the eyes. I hope you’ll check this one out. See you next week.