Some films you just want to live inside, this is one of those movies.
Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel is a delightful and mischievous confection that is a true delight for the senses. It's also wickedly funny thanks in no small part to Ralph Fiennes who, in recent years with appearances in In Bruges and Cemetery Junction has been showing a hitherto hidden flair for comedy, well this performance is undoubtedly his pinnacle with lines like 'She was shaking like a shitting dog' (always one of my favourite similes) delivered with an aplomb that makes the viewer's jaw drop before dissolving into fits of laughter - primarily because, with his dramatic track record, you don't truly expect it from Fiennes. His slippery yet beguiling and utterly charming M. Gustave is a creation of Withnail-like proportions and I love it.
The supporting cast is just as fabulous and Anderson has truly pulled out all the stops here with each character being played by a talented and famous face. Remember those 60s Peter Sellers movies like The Magic Christian or Casino Royale, silly adventures were cameo after cameo impressed? The Grand Budapest Hotel feels a little like those at times. I could mention Jeff Goldblum or Willem Defoe, Harvey Keitel or F Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton or Saoirse Ronan, Matthieu Amalric or Ed Norton - all fabulous - but really special praise must go to newcomer Tony Revolori for holding his own alongside Fiennes throughout and helping to make their friendship truly convincing and totally touching.
As well as its impeccable cast and its equally impeccable sense of style, there is also the now traditional Anderson trademarks; the use of animation, distinctive imagery and colour schemes. But this isn't just the usual quirky Anderson movie. I'd argue that more than any other offering, The Grand Budapest Hotel needed this approach because it is trying to evoke a particular refined and sophisticated period - a period whose death knell had been sounded. Indeed between the gales of laughter one cannot help but feel a poignancy brought on by the winds of change Anderson is depicting. The emotional maturity that often runs through his films and reached perhaps its deftest approach in The Darjeeling Limited is especially well used, though subtly so here, because it goes hand in hand with the film's historical context and backdrop.
The Europe on the brink of war setting is a genre I am particularly fond of in film and literature and I must confess I am something of a devotee of fiction from the likes of John Buchan (The 39 Steps etc) and specific books like Riddle of The Sands, Fortunes of War, the TV adaptation of Olivia Manning's autobiographical works, films like Hitch's The Lady Vanishes and of course the work of Stefn Zweig, all of which have some echo here. In many ways, the style is the substance within The Grand Budapest Hotel.