Ralph Fiennes hasn’t been given many chances to act silly. Even his lighter roles end up heavy, which is why his filmography is built on Schindler’s Lists and English Patients. It begs the question of how Wes Anderson landed on Fiennes for his M. Gustave, whose kooky concierge is the comedic axis of the film? — a question answered promptly with a hundred minutes of Fiennes’ inexhaustible talent and charm. This may be Anderson’s purest comedy to date, which says any number of things about the director — he’s lightening up, he’s more interested in genre, he understands how hilarious Willem Dafoe will look with a false, canine-heavy underbite. The Grand Budapest Hotel is another minutely detailed, masterfully constructed film from Wes Anderson, and a reminder that he’s almost certainly the most meticulous director working today.
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There’s a particular sect of artists of which Wes Anderson is almost certainly a member. A group of individual creatives defined almost exclusively by their style, while their substance grudgingly takes a backseat. This “style-first” aggregate often bears long-lasting fruit, as consumers have no trouble making quick reads on the group members’ products, and establish their obsessive fandom at the earliest possible stages of a career. Artists like Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Andy Kaufman, Dave Eggers, Nicki Minaj, et al, laid the foundation of their careers with a style that, at first glance, is primarily distinct for its “newness.” Certainly the question of content is raised, though only after plenty of gushing conversations about the artist’s “distinctive voice.” This has always been the dilemma for Wes Anderson, a director known universally for his visual style. Because while audiences spend countless hours discussing the color palettes and the symmetry and the fluid sets, a collection of wonderfully human characters parades right by them.
Something happens in that moment when Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) steps off the Green Line bus and the soft strum of Nico’s “These Days” flutters. Light suddenly fills her space, and time drags as she comes back to Richie (Luke Wilson), the brother she hasn’t seen in years. Each step feels eternal and Richie watches unmoving, his impassive gaze telling us far more than any dialogue or exposition. It’s a towering moment, showing us a director with, among many, many other talents, the ability to construct beautiful cinema. Character, setting, light, sound, time; all just elements that Wes Anderson has blended to a moment glancing at perfection. It can take your breath away.
Sometimes I lie in bed at night imagining how wonderful it would be to live in Wes Anderson‘s world. In the same way I once yearned for a trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, or a slightly less intensive journey through Jurassic Park. Wes Anderson has established himself as, yes, a good filmmaker. He has established himself as a leader in a new generation of individuals who are appreciated at once by the studios, the shareholders, the thinkers, the feelers, and the everymen. But more interestingly then all that, Wes Anderson has established a new reality in which, though perhaps not always connected in story, or character, or setting, his films all reside together. Continue reading