Writer/director/production design fetishist Wes Anderson unveiled his latest film The Grand Budapest Hotel, an all-star period comedy set inside an extravagant European hotel, as the opening night presentation for the 64th Berlin Film Festival. It appears the film has kicked off the festival in high spirits, as early reviews for the film appear largely favorable for the Texas-born auteur’s latest. This marks Anderson’s third film to play Berlin following 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums and 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
The Grand Budapest Hotel, which stars Ralph Fiennes as the dapper concierge of an upscale resort in a fictional European town, is among the films in competition at Berlin. Other high profile films in competition include George Clooney’s The Monuments Men (which hits stateside theaters this Friday) and Lars von Trier’s controversial Nymphomaniac, which had a secret screening at the Sundance Film Festival a few weeks back. Big Hollywood premieres at international film festivals are part of the norm as Budapest Hotel shares it’s opening night festivities with past star-studded galas like The Great Gatsby (which opened the Cannes Film Festival last spring) and Gravity (which inaugurated the Venice Film Festival last fall.) Budapest Hotel comes from a story by Anderson and Hugo Guinness (a regular Anderson collaborator who previously worked in the art department for The Royal Tenenbaums) and features a looming cast including F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Saoirse Ronan.
Justin Chang, in his positive Variety write-up, called the film, “As intricately layered as a Dobos torte and nearly as rich, this twisty tale of murder, theft, conspiracy and unlikely friendship finds its maker in an unusually ambitious and expansive mood — still arranging his characters in detail-perfect dioramas, to be sure, but with a bracing awareness of the fascism, war and decay about to encroach upon their lovingly hand-crafted world. The result is no musty nostalgia trip but rather a vibrant and imaginative evocation of a bygone era, with a brilliant lead performance from Ralph Fiennes that lends Anderson’s latest exercise in artifice a genuine soul.” While Guy Lodge in his In Contention review called the film, “dizzy, chintzy and improbably touching.”
Anderson’s last film, Moonrise Kingdom opened the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, garnered rave reviews, and became a sleeper success story of the year, culminating in an Oscar nomination for its original screenplay. It may be premature to suggest that The Grand Budapest Hotel will have a similar calling, but the early writing on the wall suggests that Anderson may have another solid hit on his hands. Fox Searchlight will release the film in the U.S. on March 7th.