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GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori
Director: Wes Anderson
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: June 17, 2014

ďYou see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that's what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant... oh, f*ck it.Ē

Film ****

Wes Anderson has established himself among the most distinctive and tremendously gifted filmmakers of our generation. And understandably so, whenever he makes a new film, itís considered an event. Heís made nothing but quality work, ranging from great to good and not a single inch below.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is far and away Andersonís finest achievement since Rushmore. Anyone whoís seen all of Andersonís work dating back to Bottle Rocket will be even more immensely appreciative because it manages to blend together both the wacky and heartfelt elements displayed in each of his previous films. And yet at the same time, itís unlike anything heís ever done before!

From a pure filmmaking standpoint, this is not just a breakthrough showcase for Anderson, but one of the brightest and boldest examples set by any filmmaker of recent memory. Everything here from the art direction to the cinematography to the music score to every single solitary detail of the production is at a level that Iím almost positive would make the late great Stanley Kubrick proud. Though released early in the year, Iím sure hoping itís remembered come Oscar time in those categories because weíll be lucky if we see another film this year that outshines this one in those departments.

The story is told from the perspective of a writer (Jude Law), whose chance encounter with an old man (F. Murray Abraham) in a hotel lobby circa 1968 leads to a story told from his perspective. The story then flashes back to 1932, as the old man, named Zero, recalls the time he spent as junior lobby boy at The Grand Budapest Hotel. This was an most upscale hotel located in the Republic of Zubrowka, and war was on the brink of breaking out.

Young Zero (Tony Revolori) is mentored in the ways of hotel and customer needs by the establishmentís concierge, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). With Zero constantly at Gustaveís side, he is given keen observance to various details about his bossí life, particularly his fondness for much older women. He is most smitten with an elderly countess (Tilda Swinton). who soon turns up dead.

Having been left a most valuable art piece in her will, Gustave is instantly been made an enemy of the countessí son, Dimitri (Adrien Brody), who obviously feels entitled to the very art piece. This sets into motion a madcap comedic chase adventure, balancing terrifically between dark and whimsical, as Gustave finds himself in prison having been accused of murdering the countess. Zero soon helps execute a daring prison escape, resulting in everyone from Dimitriís bloodthirsty right hand man, Jopling (Willem Dafoe) to police Inspector Henckels (Edward Norton) engaging in hot pursuit of them.

It really is hard to put a label on this film, and I mean that in the most positive way. Anderson is able to successfully juggle so many tones with such an extensive cast in a film that only runs a mere 100 minutes. Itís real easy to for such a film to go all over the place and result in such a mess, but through Andersonís meticulous craftsmanship, he has managed to make a zany, dark, whimsical, heartfelt and exuberantly hilarious opus that comes around so rarely. In fact, I canít remember such a brilliant tone balancing since David O. Russellís masterpiece, Three Kings.

And what Anderson has done visually with the film is nothing short of revolutionary. Though presented in the 1.85:1 flat aspect ratio, Anderson incorporates multiple film processes to reflect the various time periods seen in the film. For example, in the scenes set in the late 60Ďs with the writer and the older Zero, the frame is that of an anamorphic widescreen. But when cut to the story being told in 1932, which takes up most of the film, the events are captured in a full screen 1.37:1 ratio, fitfully reflecting how a film from that period would look. It also gave off, yet again, a tremendous Kubrick vibe. Anderson is quite a filmmaking innovator in a time when many are needed!

Cast wise, this is the most extravagant lineup Anderson has ever put together. No matter how small the part, each actor/actress makes a memorable stamp as in the case of Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Owen Wilson who show up in bit parts. Each and every cast member delivers at 100% in this one of a kind ensemble.

However, the movie definitely belongs to Ralph Fiennes who is absolutely gold in a career defining performance as the super professional and incredibly flamboyant concierge. Itís a one of a kind character creation from Anderson that Fiennes brings to brilliantly vivid life, complete with some of the best one line zingers youíll hear in any film this year or any year! He deserves absolute recognition for his performance, though comedic performances are rarely rewarded come Oscar time.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is already ranked high on my list of the absolute best films of this year, and is triumph of many sorts for the genius filmmaker that is Wes Anderson. Itís representation of filmmaking of the grandest kind as well as pure originality. Itís one I look forward to revisiting time and time again!

Video ****

Though Iím already anticipating the appearance on the inevitable Criterion release, this Blu-ray handling from Fox is no less than visually astounding! Again, we are treated to multiple framing devices in this piece, which itself is a treat in a Blu-ray offering. But Fox makes the absolute most of it with dazzling colors and lush image detail from beginning to end! Itís a presentation that will definitely be mentioned at the end of the year in terms of top quality video presentations!

Audio ****

Equally potent is the astounding DTS HD mix. The balancing of the dialogue and the elegant music score from Alexandre Desplat is absolutely flawless, and those are the two elements at work for most of the film. Added to that are a number of action set pieces that really give the surround system a working, most notably a chase scene on a snowy landscape and an all out shootout that has to be seen to be believed. In the end, we are left with a simply marvelous piece of lossless audio!

Features **

The only shortcoming of the Blu-ray are the extras, though again this will be entirely fixed when the Criterion edition surfaces. For now, we are treated to a series of featurettes including ďThe Making of The Grand Budapest HotelĒ, which is short and sweet but does feature various cast and crew interviews, as well as ďCastĒ and ďWest AndersonĒ, which are both shorter and feature additional interview tidbits with the actors and director. Next up are a collection of promotional vignettes, which add up to about ten minutes in length. Thereís also a real neat bit titled ďBill Murray Tours the TownĒ, where the actor visits where the film was shot and interacts with the residents. Rounding out everything is a Stills Gallery and Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

Wes Anderson makes nothing but pure quality films, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is the filmmaker firing on all cylinders. Not only is it one of his absolute best efforts to date, but is one of the grandest examples of pure filmmaking to come around in years. An absolute must see effort!

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