"There's no story if there isn't some conflict. The memorable things are usually not how pulled together everybody is. I think everybody feels lonely and trapped sometimes. I would think it's more or less the norm".
A warm and hearty welcome to my much anticipated (ha!) Wes Anderson love in. I love Wes Anderson movies because I'm a contrarian at heart and revel in that position as much as I possibly can. With the exception of maybe only Quentin Tarantino, nobody seemingly splits an audience like Wes Anderson. Absurd and outlandish plots with over indulged and spoilt characters going through an existential crisis or a unique and visionary storyteller whose character creations are inspiring and uplifting? You pays your money, you takes your poison I guess. To my mind, Wes Anderson is a true comedic story telling genius and I hope as you venture further through my magnum opus I have provided but a brief flavour for this modern day cinematic genius.
From the outside it would appear that Wes Anderson is a loyal film maker with career long collaborations both behind and in front of the camera. Behind the scenes, both Robert Yeoman (Director of Photography) and Mark Mothersbaugh (Music Composer) are almost ever presents in every film and David Wasco and Mark Friedberg have shared the thrilling task of production designing Anderson's often surreal creations. The collaborations in front of the camera are legion: Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Jason Schwartzman, Seymour Cassel, Adrien Brody, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton are just the stellar headline actors who have returned time and again to work with Anderson and there are numerous more actors, friends and relatives who have bought into his unique vision and done likewise.
But before we continue with Wes Anderson's cinematic creations in chronological order, here, for no particular reason whatsoever is my 1-8 of his films. You may disagree, and I sincerely hope you do, but don't go cussing or whistling like a fox! Just send me a smoke signal like normal, rational people who are going through an existential crisis do!
- Rushmore (1998)
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
- Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
- The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
- The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
- Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
- Bottle Rocket (1996)
Anthony and Dignan are best friends who act like an old married couple, bickering and chiding each other as they plan for their life of crime and being "fugitives", with Dignan the planner and Anthony seemingly along for the ride. Dignan is the self appointed leader, a meticulous planner and despite their long running feud accepts Bob as the third member of "his" gang for their first criminal escapade. They successfully yet awkwardly rob a book store but it's clear these fools aren't set for a life of crime as they haphazardly succeed and make their getaway with simply a few hundred dollars yet celebrate as though they've succeeded with the heist of the year! It's awkward and cringe worthy and reflective of the characters and indeed the narrative, but it does move the story forward and us as an audience to the second act of the film, and the best act of the film by far.
Anthony, more considered and thoughtful than his foolish friends falls in love with Paraguayan hotel chambermaid "Inez" (Lumi Cavazos) and despite the language barrier and being two totally disparate characters they slowly fall for each other. Cavazos' performance is one of the film's true highlights as is Anthony's sister "Grace" (Shea Fowler) and the film would have benefited from longer involvement from both of these female characters as they would have no doubt softened the blunt, repetitive and childish scatter gun narrative of the male leads. Within the numerous cameo roles there are two stand outs, Bob's aforementioned tormenting Brother Future Man and James Caan as crime boss "Mr Henry". However, even Caan is unable to save the film despite having it's best line of "I hope this doesn't offend you Bob, but your brother is a cocksucker". This line comes from a scene in a Golf & Country Club and is one of the film's best and comes shortly after the other stand out scene of the film, which particularly encapsulates the undercurrent of childishness that sums up Anthony's and Dignan's relationship. Dignan, angrily letting off fireworks in a field is invited to a local bar by Anthony and Inez for a drink to celebrate their burgeoning relationship and he reluctantly agrees. Outside of the bar Anthony is interrupted by a Paraguayan friend of Inez's and sits bemused and unable to understand the conversation in their native tongue and continues to drone on afterwards to Inez who similarly doesn't fully understand his frustrations. All the while, with the camera panning up from their fractured conversation, we now see Dignan in the bar behind them being beaten to a pulp for cheating at pool.
These two particular scenes are complimented by two further accomplishments in the film overall, the first being the continued use of extreme close ups on normal, every day narrative items (a photo, handwritten lists and the pinball machine are three examples of many in the film) as well as several straight on and unemotional "to camera" shots of the characters, particularly Anthony. The second is the musical score from Mark Mothersbaugh and his combination of a Latin American/American infused accompaniment plus two individual and eclectic tracks from The Rolling Stones (2000 Man) and The Proclaimers (Over and Done With). Come the slow motion ending and the faint uncredited strains of The Rolling Stones and Under My Thumb, I was still left underwhelmed by Wes Anderson's debut film. As a crime caper it could and should have been funnier and it was clearly a labour of love for both the Director and fellow writer/actor Owen Wilson. There seems a lot of unfulfilled promise here, however there was far greater achievements to follow, and very soon indeed.
So what do you get if you combine an ambitious, head strong yet ultimately unsure of himself 15 year old boy that prefers extra curricular after school activities than school itself, a disaffected, perma smoking millionaire, a beautiful young teacher trying to come to terms with the untimely death of her husband, a school headmaster forever chasing his tail amidst the madness that surrounds him, a young pupil who doesn't need guidance but simply a friend, an obnoxious, foul mouthed Scottish pupil and a multitude of further characters that you'll invest your affections in, cheer for and laugh along with? Wait! Hold that thought! There's more: A story of hopes, dreams, love and friendships, of growing up and growing old, broken friendships and broken dreams, revenge and redemption shot through the prism of a 15 year old boy just trying to avoid a rigid school structure and set up as many clubs and societies as he tries to find his real calling in life? Keep holding that thought! There's more: All of this and much, much more is shot through the lens of Wes Anderson with his quirky and oblique camera angles, his Tarantinoesque zoom close ups on ordinary narrative items, straight ahead shots of the characters as we delve further into their psyche, long tracking shots and sweeping camera moves, upside down shots, drowned out dialogue, beautifully affecting slow motion shots and a wonderful harpsichord musical score and eclectic musical choices from across the ages? What you get is Wes Anderson's first bona fide classic that by the slow motion captured ending, as Anderson brings together all of these wonderfully created characters and sound tracked by The Faces "Ooh La La" you will have laughed, smiled, cheered and maybe, just maybe, have wiped away a tear or two.
This modern comedy classic was written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson and is far superior to their earlier collaboration on Bottle Rocket but both writers also owe a debt of gratitude to not only a wonderful cast of actors who humanised their creations but also Director of Photography Robert Yeoman and particularly the returning Music Composer Mark Mothersbaugh for his simple yet effective harpsichord score. The individual song choices also truly "fit" every scene they're attached to and it's a veritable who's who of 1960's and 1970's classics, from The Kinks "Nothin' in the world can stop me worrying 'bout that girl" (and Bill Murray's hilarious jump off of the diving board), Cat Stevens "Here Comes my Baby", Donovan's "Jersey Thursday" as it accompanies our 15 year old hero standing by a bonfire in the school grounds and giving the headmaster the middle finger, as well as classics from John Lennon, The Who, The Faces and of course in a Wes Anderson film, The Rolling Stones. The harpsichord score and the multitude of music tracks is a true wonder of this fantastic film.
The 15 year old hero of our story is "Max Fischer" (Jason Schwartzman) and it's a wonderfully accomplished portrayal of a dreamer who's frustrated with school and who lives for the numerous clubs and societies he creates or co-founds outside of the standard school curriculum. From the opening of his school yearbook (cue the first of many close up's on ordinary, everyday items that has become a Wes Anderson staple) we see that Max sure is busy! Publisher of the Yankee Review, President of the French Club, President of the Stamp and Coin Club, Debating Team Captain, Founder of the Astrology Society and many more as the Director cleverly cuts from one titled slide to another (see pictures above) quickly and effectively depicting Max's busy after school schedule. Max is also a gifted Playwright and one of the principal reasons why he was accepted at such a prestigious school as Rushmore, yet he is still regarded as "one of the worst students we got" by Headmaster "Nelson Guggenheim" (Brian Cox). Although Max acts far beyond his tender years he is seeking to make sense of the world and his place within it as he tellingly admits to his Father "Bert Fischer" (Seymour Cassel) that he constantly feels "adrift at sea". Throughout his life he is constantly hiding beyond this façade of being a confident and wise teenager beyond his years by ingratiating himself with everyone he can, especially the teachers and adults he comes into contact with and strikes up unlikely and unorthodox friendships with "Herman Blume" (Bill Murray) and Rushmore teacher "Miss Cross" (Olivia Williams). Both adults regard Max as a unique and gifted individual and after successfully directing a school play of Serpico, he invites his friends to a celebratory evening meal. However, much to Max's chagrin, Miss Cross invites her friend "Dr Peter Flynn" (Luke Wilson) to join them and these unlikely friendships are tested to their limit by Max's childish intemperance:
The scene reverts back to a wide shot of the four now uncomfortable dinner guests and Max continues to grill Peter, whom he now impertinently calls "Curly" about how he knows Miss Cross. Peter replies to Max's question but Max isn't listening or doesn't care and to alleviate the building atmosphere Blume asks for the bill. The camera cuts to a straight on shot of Max who says they don't need the bill just yet and a further awkward scene ensues with Max falsely apologising to the waiter for the extra guest as we cut between a furious Max and a bemused waiter! We cut to an angry Miss Cross who chides Max for "being rude" and further cuts between Miss Cross and Max, his voice growing louder and more frustrated at why "this gentleman" attended his play. There is a quick further cut back to a wide shot of all four as Peter reaches for the cream and Max hits his hand with a spoon before dismissively pushing the cream in his direction! This brilliantly awkward and comedic scene ends in a flurry of quick cuts around the table, with Miss Cross growing more and more uncomfortable with Max's outlandish behaviour and both Peter and Blume awkwardly scan the restaurant before Max, replies to Miss Cross' question of "what's wrong with you?" with the scene stealing and highly uncomfortable:
"YOU HURT MY FEELINGS!"
"THIS NIGHT WAS IMPORTANT TO ME!"
"I WROTE A HIT PLAY!"
"and I'm in love with you"
Alongside Schwartzman's highly impressive portrayal of Max is a performance of brilliant comedic timing (what else would you expect?) from Bill Murray. In the first of several collaborations with Director Anderson, Murray portrays the multi millionaire industrialist Herman Blume with a subtle touch at times and with a comedy sledgehammer at others! Although wealthy and successful Blume remains unfulfilled until he meets the son he never had in the shape of Max Fischer and he clearly admires Max's intelligence, chutzpah and fearless attitude but above all else Max is the opposite of Blume's own twin sons. Ever the twist in a Wes Anderson film, it's the adult Blume who seeks out Max's advice and for his secret to life, giving rise to the iconic response of "I think you just gotta find something you love and then do it for the rest of your life". A star is born, as is a very unorthodox yet deeply affecting friendship. Dismissively throwing golf balls into his swimming pool before ascending the steps of his poolside diving tower, cigarette in mouth and whiskey in hand, portrays a very troubled Blume and Bill Murray at his finest. Similarly, Olivia Williams is wonderful in the role of the quiet natured Rushmore teacher Miss Cross, concealing a deep secret that proves ever more difficult as her friendship with the 15 year old grows. Max's schoolboy crush is evident early on but he reminds her of her husband but like every character creation here she has an arc and many layers to reveal, with Williams excelling. Their joint scenes together are one of the many heart beats of a wonderful film.
With a substantial cast list there are many returning actors from Bottle Rocket and many which, recognised or less so, would continue to return in subsequent Wes Anderson films which speaks volumes for the Director himself. Here, Luke Wilson cameos as the fourth wheel in the unfortunate dinner scene above as Dr Peter Flynn and his brother Andrew Wilson cameos as the deadpan teacher "Coach Beck". Brian Tenenbaum returns as "Contractor", Dipak Pallana returns as "Mr Adams" and his father returns as the hilariously deadpan "Mr Little Jeans" but four further smaller roles are also worthy of note, three of which come from young actors who provide excellent portrayals in their own right. Sara Tanaka is excellent as Max's would be girlfriend "Margaret Yang", Stephen McCole's cameo as the foul mouthed "Magnus Buchan" is highly memorable for one of the best and most amusing lines in the film of "Why don't you piss off Fischer, you dirty wee skidmark!" and Mason Gamble plays Max's young confidant and note taker "Dirk Calloway". Last but by no means least is the aforementioned school headmaster Nelson Guggenheim portrayed by the excellent Brian Cox. Max is the bane of Guggenheim's life and both this, and the film as a whole is perfectly encapsulated by one of their numerous joint scenes together and is excellently captured by the Director. Just sit back and enjoy the splendour of Anderson's roving camera from one actor to the other as the tension builds between them and all this is framed by a nonplussed dog and a portrait of Winston Churchill hanging behind them! It's a gem of a brief scene.
As I conclude this lengthy (even for me) review, you may be under the distinct impression that I like this master class of a film. Sixteen years since it's initial release, Rushmore remains fresh, vibrant, visually slick and funny as hell. Suffice to say I absolutely adore it. Wes Anderson was just 29 years old when he directed this gem and it retains both it's beauty and elegance, is affecting, moving, enveloping and deeply funny. His first bona fide classic also displays so many of the characteristics that have come to define his films and the quirky yet beautiful touches we fans have come to admire and love. Rushmore has character progression, a narrative actually designed to spread it's wings and tell a story, a sublime soundtrack that compliments every scene it accompanies and some truly wonderful central performances. That is to say nothing of his brilliant use of surrealism, slow motions, upside down shots, oblique angles, close ups, title slides and disguised dialogue. If you haven't seen Rushmore yet track down a copy and see it. If you have seen it, sit back and treat yourself to another 93 minutes of Wes Anderson's 1998 classic all over again.
Narrated by Alec Baldwin throughout, Wes Anderson's third cinematic offering opens as you'd expect, with an overhead shot of a book which is upside down naturally! The book is "The Royal Tenenbaums" and it's being checked out of a library and we continue the book theme as a title slide of "Prologue" appears which is clearly a page from the aforementioned book. Cue an instrumental version of The Beatles "Hey Jude" and sit back, relax and enjoy another Wes Anderson master class of melancholic madness, surrealist satire and heart warming humour. The opening seven and a half minutes has it all: beautiful sweeping camera shots, straight on unemotional character shots, close ups on ordinary everyday items, zoom push ins and out on characters and title slides, lots and lots of title slides, from "Chas' Room (2nd Floor)" to "Financial Magazines" to "Library of Plays" and "Models of Sets" to name just a few. Oh, and a champion tennis player, a cold and deadpan Father, a loving and devoted Mother, a highly ambitious and successful young boy, a 9th Grade Playwright, a missing finger, a failed painter and a very awkward Birthday. And some survivors on "crackers and root beer" and a Falcon named Mordecai! As Mordecai takes flight and is captured beautifully by a slowly moving sweeping camera, The Beatles reach their well known and crowd pleasing crescendo and the continuing theme of the book returns with another title slide "Cast of Characters (22 Years Later):
Family Patriarch who through his own aloof and singular attitude has become estranged from his wife and three children. The onset of cancer forces Royal to re-evaluate his life and seek a family reconciliation. Direct and a force of nature, Royal speaks his mind without regard for those around him and Hackman portrays him superbly in a tragi-comedic way. The film revolves around his central performance as he tries and comically fails to ingratiate himself back into the lives of his disparate and distant family and this is personified by his early attempts to involve himself in the lives of his grandchildren Ari and Uzi. His highly inappropriate first meeting with them and his comment that their mother was a "terribly attractive woman" is wince inducing, but a later montage sound tracked by Paul Simon's "Me and Julio down by the schoolyard" is a true highlight of the film, both in it's simplicity and choice of music. But it's also perfectly symptomatic of Royal himself, a man out of time, quite literally, but whose heart is very nearly in the right place!
Family Matriarch and polar opposite of her husband. A busy archaeologist, Bridge player and utterly devoted Mother to her children who overlooks their individual foibles. A burgeoning relationship is developing with her Accountant, Business Manager and Bridge partner Henry Sherman, but it's her laughter filled walk with Royal that really showcases Anjelica Huston's understated performance. She may well rebuke her husband for impertinently enquiring about her love life at the end of the scene, but the scene itself is a joy as both lead actors perform admirably whilst Director Anderson follows their stroll with a long sweeping, tracking camera throughout. As with Hackman above, this part was written specifically for her and is the first of several collaborations with the Director.
Perma track suited, aloof and very, very angry but often comically so. Chas is fiercely protective of his two sons which is exemplified by their chaotic and highly amusing late night fire drill but a touching scene soon follows sound tracked by John Lennon's Look at Me and the highly prescient lyrics of "What am I supposed to be?". Chas' thoughts through the prism of John Lennon and another master stroke from the Director. Chas is deeply resentful of his Father and this is brilliantly encapsulated in their amusing yelling match inside the tight confines of a cupboard housing board games! This is Stiller's one and only collaboration with Anderson to date and subsequently he's rarely been better than his performance of Chas here.
Margot has sure had a checkered life so far! And it shows in every look, touch and nuance of Gwyneth Paltrow's performance as the deeply depressed and psychologically damaged Margot. On the surface she is a secret yet chain smoker, fulfilled yet anything but and a successful child prodigy playwright. Margot simply hasn't found her place in the world and has been deeply unhappy since her adoption into the Tenenbaum family aged two. She is in love with her brother Richie, cuckolding her much older neurologist husband and having an affair with Richie's best friend Eli! But this is just the tip of her twisted love life which is brilliantly realised in just one minute of screen time in a flurry of flashbacks and sound tracked by the excellent "Judy is a Punk" by The Ramones. Despite a particularly difficult role as Margot, Paltrow, like Stiller above has rarely been better since.
Joint co-writer again with Director Anderson in their third such collaboration, Owen Wilson returns for his second acting stint here as reckless and feckless family friend Eli Cash. Professionally, Eli is a moderately successful author and Assistant Professor of English Literature but he's slowly and surely going off the rails and very definitely on drugs. His awkward and secret tryst with Margot is satisfying no-one and tellingly he states to his best friend "I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum, you know". A superbly comedic cameo from Wilson and deserving of his Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay at the 2002 Oscars, an honour he shared with his friend and Director Anderson.
In this, his second collaboration with the Director, Murray is excellent as the neurologist cum author Raleigh St Clair. It's a subtle performance of gradual heartbreak but you'll be cheering for Raleigh before he says "Au Revoir".
Permanently dressed like Bjorn Borg at the height of his late 1970's power in a headband, wristband and Fila tennis shirt, Richie is a professional tennis player who's dropped out of life to sail around the world to nurse his broken heart as he's deeply in love with his adopted sister Margot but their love is doomed following her recent marriage. Richie is his Father's favoured son and particularly close to his Dad however he's as estranged from him as everyone else. This is Luke Wilson's third collaboration with friend and Director Wes Anderson and owner of two of the film's most heartbreaking scenes, sound tracked by "Needle in the Hay" by Elliott Smith and "Ruby Tuesday" by The Rolling Stones.
Aside from the central performances noted above, each of these characters has a real narrative arc and all have their individual and distinctive character costume. Richie is perennially dressed in his tennis attire and sunglasses, his brother Chas was always dressed in a formal suit as a child and now as an adult is constantly dressed in a red Adidas track suit, Eli is always dressed as a cowboy and the remaining older male characters are attired in formal suits throughout the film. Etheline is the only character that doesn't adhere to this rule and this is possibly a reflection that her character is the only one to have moved on with her life? In supporting roles are numerous actors and personal friends who return again from previous Wes Anderson films, notably Father and Son Kumar Pallana "Pagoda" and Dipak Pallana "Doctor", Seymour Cassel returns as "Dusty" and friends Stephen Dignan and Brian Tenenbaum both return in roles as a "Paramedic". Anderson's brother Eric Chase Anderson is also involved as "Medical Student". Stephen Lea Sheppard deserves great credit for his bizarre, surreal and almost wordless performance as Raleigh St Clair's pet project "Dudley Heinsbergen".
The story of The Tenenbaum family continues throughout in a story book fashion with titled slides announcing Chapters 1 through 7 before this darkly comedic yet melancholic familial tale of insecurities, loss, unrequited love, redemption and finding your place in the world concludes with a title slide of "Epilogue" and another classic slow motion ending and the strains of Van Morrison. Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson fully deserved their joint Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for their disturbingly funny tale. Rushmore was an incredibly hard act to follow and they almost, almost surpassed it. 13 years on The Royal Tenenbaums is another bona fide Wes Anderson masterpiece with all of his trademarks of title slides, overhead shots, tracking shots, close in unemotional character shots and extreme zoom ins on ordinary everyday objects in place and The Tenenbaum family tale still resonates deeply with me and remains a melancholic gem well worthy of two hours of your time.
In amongst the now eponymous Wes Anderson staples of titled slides, scrolling text, sweeping camera shots, straight on unemotional shots of the lead character and a quickly introduced set of further bizarre and colourful characters, there is a simple premise for this, his fourth film. "Steve Zissou" (Bill Murray) has seen his best friend "Estaban Du Planier" (Seymour Cassell) eaten by a jaguar shark whilst filming their latest underwater documentary and Zissou vows revenge. "Team Zissou" as they become known, comprise an eclectic mix of character creations from Anderson himself and, departing from Owen Wilson as a fellow writing partner here, Noah Baumbach. The crew of their ship Belafonte is manned by "Klaus Daimler" (Willem Dafoe) an eccentric German Engineer and second in command on the ship, "Vikram Ray" (Waris Ahluwalia) is the camera operator for the upcoming documentary, "Vladimir Wolodarsky" (Noah Taylor) is the ship's physicist and music composer for the documentary, "Renzo Pietro" (Pawel Wdowczak) is a nominal editor and "Anne-Marie Sakowitz" (Robyn Cohen) is a nominal script writer who is almost permanently topless! If that isn't bizarre enough for you we also have "Pele dos Santos" (Seu Jorge) as a crew member who blissfully sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese! On and off the ship, and in and out of Zissou's life is also his perma smoking and beautifully seductive but estranged wife "Eleanor Zissou" (Anjelica Huston), his benefactor come producer "Oseary Drakoulias" (Michael Gambon), bag man "Bill Ubell" (Bud Cort), "Jane Winslett-Richardson" (Cate Blanchett) a strangely plum voiced reporter seeking a scoop on the mysterious Steve Zissou and finally, in his best role to date in a Wes Anderson film we have Owen Wilson as airline pilot and may be, may be not son of Zissou, "Ned Plimpton". Oh, and some interns, some pirates and a star turn from Jeff Goldblum as Zissou's rival "Alistair Hennessey". Confused? You should be! However all this and more is explained in the film's opening scenes as we move quickly from the premiere of Zissou's ill fated documentary (shown in 4:3 Ratio as per picture above) with the red curtains of the cinema still in shot (naturally!) followed by an awkwardly muted "Q & A" afterwards and an equally awkward "Meet and Greet" which culminates in meeting his "nemesis" and rival Alistair Hennessey. Two more beautiful sweeping camera shots follow, firstly before a strained meeting with benefactor and producer Oseary Drakoulias (and the first of many electrical blackouts on the ship), an awkward meeting with his may be/may be not son Ed Plimpton before Zissou declares revenge on the jaguar shark and is captured in slow motioned beauty striding to the end of his ship to the strains of "Life on Mars" by David Bowie. It's a surreal and ultra bizarre start to a similarly surreal and bizarre film!
"Let me tell you about my boat" (picture opposite) is the first of many truly beautiful and surreal scenes in the first half of the film as a slow sweeping camera takes the audience on a bizarre journey through the boat, sweeping from the sauna, through the laboratory, kitchen and film making room before ending "topside". It's representative of the film as a whole and of an almost surrealistic comic book, and a wonderful brief scene. As is the picture directly above this, of Pele, acoustic guitar in hand and blissfully singing Bowie's "Space Oddity" (in Portuguese naturally!) and totally oblivious to the madness unfolding behind him! And therein lies a key metaphor for the film itself and the boat's highly comedic Captain. Steve Zissou is 52 years of age and his critics, Jane Winslett-Richardson among them, feel his star is fading, his film's faked, the jaguar shark non-existent and his best days are behind him. He displays a childlike abandon and ploughs on regardless, despite the chaos surrounding him and both metaphorically and physically, behind him. Everything appears to be happening behind him and he remains oblivious to it all, whether it's the constant electrical blackouts on the boat, his son's relationship with reporter Winslett-Richardson, his wife leaving him, he ignores his hard working interns and his crew, he's unaware of the mutiny on board his own boat and he constantly refuses to deal with his nemesis. All the while, he owns an island, a fort, a boat and feeds his killer whale by hand but his film making is chaotic, recorded on antiquated equipment which produces shoddy, second rate films. Perhaps his best days are behind him and perhaps everything else, including his life, is behind him too? Further plot spoilers aside, Zissou's interviews with reporter Winslett-Richardson provide real insight into a bizarre film and to Zissou himself:
Eating an apple, relaxed and happy, Zissou dismisses Winslett-Richardson's initial questions, believing her article to be "a puff piece" rather than actually challenging or dissecting his new film. His mood changes quickly when Winslett-Richardson suggests his stock with the public has fallen in the last five years and furthermore she particularly feels his most recent film was a "fake". Zissou, his anger rising, is now fuming that someone could suggest his film was a fake in any way and that he'd seen his best friend eaten in front of him by a jaguar shark and he aims a gun at the reporter asking her if the gun itself is a fake and accuses her of being a poor reporter. Winslett-Richardson is obviously taken aback by the pointing of a gun and the besmirching of her character and profession before tellingly exclaiming "no-one gives a shit" about her interview or the article she'll write before turning away from Zissou and sobbing. Whilst the tension and anger rises in this scene it must be borne in mind that behind Winslett-Richardson is a non-plussed cat and behind Zissou is his killer whale happily swimming upside down and joyfully playing! All framed in two simple camera shots on each of the protagonists cutting between the two amidst a surreal mixture of anger, tension and absurd humour!
"Hey Intern, get me a Campari"
"You wanna go up in my balloon?"
Despite the continuing surrealistic madness the film falls a little flat for me in the second half but that's not to say it's a failure or disappointing. Far from it. This chaotic tale of Team Zissou (which is an ode and homage to famed French diver Jacques Cousteau who is thanked in the film's closing credits) is a real visual and aural treat. Mark Mothersbaugh returns again as the film's composer and here infuses an early 1980's Bontempi/Casio keyboard style synthesiser score which builds progressively to match the intensity and higher tempo of the film's second half. Interestingly, this is the first Wes Anderson film not to include any tracks from The Rolling Stones but there are snippets from The Zombies and Iggy Pop, however's it's the Portuguese flavoured David Bowie songs that dominate, please and bemuse in equal measure! Production Designer Mark Friedberg (a recent collaborator with Darren Aronofsky on Noah) deserves immense credit for the intricate detail on the boat alone and the continuing partnership between Director and Director of Photography (a returning Robert Yeoman) again shines through as the Mediterranean vistas (both day and night) are beautifully lit and framed and you can see that every nuance and touch has been planned to the nth degree by these great friends and partners. Milena Canonero's costume designs are a distinct character in their own right, from formal to informal attire, to the ridiculous pajamas, diving suits and of course, the crew's red hats! The huge visual effects and special effects teams also deserve special praise for the immense detail provided to the all important stop motion underwater creatures which whilst they do not always convince they always retain an edge for the bizarre and surreal.
Co-writers Anderson and Baumbach's character creations were realised with tongues firmly in cheek by an excellent (what else do you expect?) Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe and Anjelica Huston continues to be the unrequited love of my life. But Owen Wilson deserves special praise for his performance which to my eyes is his best to date in a Wes Anderson film. This film within a film is flat out nuts at times, is vastly inventive, creative and surreal whilst depicting a man on a mission, a man refusing to grow up and a man refusing to accept what is ultimately behind him. Place your tongue firmly in your cheek, suspend your disbelief and you may enjoy a voyage with Team Zissou.
Francis (Owen Wilson) Oldest of the three brothers and outwardly the paternal figure of the three which begins to grate on the reunited brothers almost immediately. Francis is domineering and a forward planner with his damned "Itinerary" and their entire trip planned to the nth degree! However it's for a good reason and not simply the outward and surface idea of getting back together with his brothers, for finding themselves spiritually or to "say yes to everything". All of these are true of course, but he's a meticulous planner for other reasons too. He's fond of saying "Itinerary" and asking "Do You Trust Me?" a lot and as well as being heavily bandaged and having a fractured foot he's also lost a tooth! Francis' choice of painkiller is India's strongest available. All is revealed as the film progresses and Owen Wilson surprises his most ardent critic (me) with a superlative performance that even outshines his measured performance in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. This is Owen Wilson at his very best and he would go on to collaborate yet again with the Director on two of his forthcoming three films.
Peter (Adrien Brody) First seen running for the departing train (and setting a trend for the brothers for the entire film), Peter is the last to arrive for the reunion and the biggest existential crisis to be running away from. His wife is pregnant and due to give birth in six weeks yet he's a world away from her and questioning whether or not he wishes to actually be a Father as he fears divorce far more. As with his brothers he still mourns the passing of his Father but he's taking it to extreme lengths by hoarding his late Father's glasses, keys and razor which provides a wider divide between himself and his siblings. Peter's choice of painkiller is an Indian muscle relaxer and he's been known to exclaim "Fuck the Itinerary!". Adrien Brody runs Owen Wilson a very close second with an outstanding performance of barely controlled anger and remorse and would soon reunite with the Director on two of his next three films.
Jack (Jason Schwartzman) Youngest of the brothers and always being dragged into their comical exchanges. In desperate need to talk to someone, anyone but his bickering siblings! Heartbroken over the loss of his Father and now missing his ex girlfriend, he certainly enjoyed being "used" by Rita though it ultimately left her heartbroken and tearful too. A writer who's painkiller of choice is Indian flu medicine amongst many others and who "don't feel good about myself". Nowhere near as good as his iconic performance in Rushmore but that's not to say his deadpan, laconic performance doesn't shine because it does. But he's the youngest sibling and they're always the least to be seen and heard. Jason would also feature in the coming three Anderson films.
Although this is Wes Anderson's most understated film to date that's not to say his trademark staples of extreme close up's on ordinary items, extreme zooms (highly effective here both as zoom in's and zoom out's), distanced zoom's even, slow motion shots, long tracking shots, disguised dialogue and some sublime overhead shots aren't included. They are, and as always, to great effect, especially the two overhead shots of the luggage and the pepper spray gun which precedes a highly comedic close to the first half of the film. Regular Director of Photography Robert Yeoman returns capturing the albeit sporadic yet beautiful shots of the Indian countryside and the high shot over a suburban city whilst the young inhabitants play cricket "with a tennis ball!". Yeoman also lights one of the best scenes of the film as the brothers sit around a camp fire getting high on their various painkilling medicines and ruminating why they don't trust each other and Jack asks the telling question "I wonder if the three of us could've been friends in real life, not as brothers?". It's a gem of a short scene and highly effective. Regular music composer Mark Mothersbaugh is replaced here with local Indian composer Satyajit Ray for a more localised score and for inspiration from traditional Indian films from which much of the music is derived from. As with all Wes Anderson film's there are also so many stand out songs included with three tracks from The Kinks (This Time Tomorrow, Strangers and Powerman) and the hauntingly beautiful "Where do you go to (My Lovely) by Peter Sarstedt as well as The Rolling Stones lyrically apt "Play with Fire" which is an obvious lyrical insignia for the film as a whole. Classical tracks also make a reappearance with the stand out "Debussy: 3 Clair de Lune" playing over the aforementioned camp fire scene and the closing credits roll to the wonderful "Champs Elysses" by Joe Dassin. Suffice to say, for a Wes Anderson film, the musical choices are again absolutely sublime and compliment a truly wonderful film of three brothers trying to reconcile with themselves as well as with the death of their beloved Father. All three are running away from something and some more so than others and they all have mental and physical scars whilst trying to find their place in the world. Constant themes of spirituality, religion and faith abound but it's far more than that and more the baggage we carry and where we ultimately find a home for it. Blackly comedic with a real crunching gear change that may surprise, it's yet another eminently quotable Wes Anderson film and a worthy addition to his cinematic cannon of work.
Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
The premise is a simple one: "Mr Fox" (George Clooney) has mended his ways and tamed his "wild animal" instincts of killing chickens and geese and gone straight! After promising "Mrs Fox" (Meryl Streep) that he won't return to his previous more natural ways after the birth of their cub "Ash" (Jason Schwartzman) he is now a newspaper columnist, albeit a rather unfulfilled one. They reside in a small but adequately furnished hole in the ground (which is brilliantly realised) but Mr Fox laments to his wife "Honey, I'm 7 non fox years old. My Father died at 7 and a half. I don't want to live in a hole any more" and there follows a house move, a grand plan, a scuppered plan, a revised plan, a rescue mission, a plan B, a host of voice talents to match the bizarre animals they vocalise, a gem of a musical score from Alexandre Desplat, individual songs from The Beach Boys, Cole Porter, the theme from "A Few Dollars More" and of course The Rolling Stones and as many Wes Anderson title slides, overhead shots, rolling shots, extreme close ups, straight on unemotional shots, books, paintings and newspapers that you can shake a fox's tail at! Which brings us back to Mr Fox. You'll either love or hate his whistle and clicking, but it's his "trademark" after all and Clooney voices him in a deadpan manner that pleases this 42 year old teenager immensely. He's going through an existential crisis (I know he's a fox, but go with me here) as he's estranged from his cub Ash (whom Schwartzman voices in a low deadpan manner too and highly effectively) and somewhat estranged from Mrs Fox too. Their joint scene midway through the film with a waterfall backdrop is a gem and Mrs Fox, an accomplished painter who's prone to being flirted with by a "psychotic rat" loves her husband despite his foibles and is well voiced by Streep. But most of all Mr Fox simply wants to be liked and loved by those around him and he's surrounded by a colourful cast of characters.
And all is well with the world and the world that Mr Fox inhabits. Well, almost. But rest assured, in amongst the many Wes Anderson staples of overhead shots, rolling camera shots, straight on unemotional shots, title slides and extreme close ups is a riotously funny tale of a tail, a fox, some cubs, a badger, a weasel, a squirrel, an otter and a flirting rat following calamitous plans, rescue missions and trying to avoid Jarvis Cocker's ridiculously surreal song. There's no slow motion ending but there is a Rolling Stones song, a highly appropriate and apt Rolling Stones song befitting a wonderful film that young and old alike will find joyous. Just don't cuss at me if you fail to find this a wonderous beauty of a film. But you will.
The opening credits commence with a loud clap of thunder and the camera settles on a painted picture of a red coloured house before the camera begins one of many majestic sweeps around the house. Firstly it sweeps to the right and to the top of a flight of stairs where a young boy is ascending the said stairs and walks past a small model of what appears to be the same red coloured house. The moving camera continues to sweep into the next room whereby the same young boy now enters that room and opens a record player and sits cross legged in front of the player and pushes the needle onto the record. It's initially spoken word but will soon become "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra Op:34" by Benjamin Britten. A sharp camera move to the right follows and we see another young boy standing with his hands on his hips before another young boy peers out from behind the bedroom door.
Another sharp camera move to the right follows again and this time we see a young girl descending the outside stairwell before entering the room carrying a kitten and approaching the table ahead. Placing the kitten gently on the table momentarily, she collects the binoculars that are front and centre of the screen before picking up the kitten again and exiting the screen. She reappears almost instantly in the next frame, entering the bedroom of the boy listening to the music who has been joined by the other two boys. Every frame has been accompanied by the opening credits of the film, naming both the character names and the actors portraying these roles.
As the young girl enters the bedroom she ignores all three boys sitting on the carpet and sits in the window seat or window ledge and opens her book, which an extreme close up confirms is "Shelly and the Secret Universe". She reads for a brief moment before putting the book down and drawing back the curtains and as she does so the music volume is increased dramatically and she peers through her binoculars and through the recently opened curtains. As the young girl does this, the camera zooms quickly back away from the girl still peering through her binoculars until the entire red house and surrounding coastline is visible and the title slide of "Moonrise Kingdom" is displayed above the house. The slide itself is purposely old school, the purpose of which will become clearer as we proceed. However, the title slide flashes red in conjunction with a loud clap of thunder overhead.
As the opening credits continue to list the coming characters and actors that will fill those roles the three boys are now framed briefly playing a game on the carpet before the camera sweeps right into an empty room with two separate rooms leading from this empty one. The room on the left is occupied by an adult lady painting her nails and in the adjoining room is an adult male reading a newspaper. The camera continues to sweep to the right, past a bicycle before stopping front and centre on the young girl who is again peering through her binoculars. We as the audience never see what she is looking at or watching.
We cut to the adult male, now in another spacious room of the house but still reading the newspaper lying on a sofa with a bearskin rug in the foreground before the camera now sweeps left to the bottom of the stairs as one of the boys descends the stairs carrying a model aeroplane and is quickly joined by the other two boys doing likewise. The camera continue to move throughout and sweeps left again, past numerous paintings on the wall and past the adult lady now in the bathroom washing her hair before the camera stops again on the young girl who is still peering through her binoculars. There is a lifeboat in the background named "Summer's End". We cut to the three boys now playing table tennis and the camera now pans upward past the adult female drying her hair on one floor of the house and the adult male on another floor still reading the newspaper as the camera continues to pan in one continual shot upward.
As the camera continues panning upward it follows a ladder upward to the top deck of the house and again the young girl is front and centre, peering through her binoculars. We quickly cut to the three boys now eating in another spacious room of the house surrounded by numerous paintings on the wall before the camera pans back through the house, past the adult male drinking wine and reading the newspaper, the adult lady smoking and filing her nails whilst leaning against the door frame of another room until the camera finally settles on the young lady who is still peering through her binoculars.
The dislocation of the family is clearly now set as after the smooth camera pan through the house we see the three boys separately in one room, the Father on his own in the next room, similarly the Mother in the next room and finally the young lady in yet another separate room and still peering through her binoculars. We cut to the young girl leaving the house and approaching the mailbox, taking out the contents and we cut to the first of many Wes Anderson staples, an extreme close up of a letter addressed to the young girl in question, namely "Suzy Bishop" and the sender "Sam Shakusky".
We cut to Suzy walking and reading her letter from Sam, the camera following her in a sweeping motion to the right before she sits at a school bus stop to continue reading. As the continuing music reaches a loud crescendo Suzy, in another Wes Anderson hallmark, stares directly and unemotionally at the camera lens before securing the letter in a box marked "Private" and walking off camera to the left. We cut to one of the three young boys sitting cross legged on the carpet as he lifts the needle from the record player and the music ends. We cut to a narration from actor Bob Balaban in the style only Wes Anderson could pull off, not in the normal style of film narration but straight to camera with Bob front and centre!
After a brief slide depicting the map of "New Penzance Island" we cut to a straight to camera narration from Bob Balaban and through the next eight quick cuts we see and hear Bob describe the island's history, background and geography and as you'd expect from such a narration it's pure Wes Anderson and with tongue firmly in cheek it's also bizarrely surreal. However, "The year is 1965. We are on the far edge of Black Beacon Sound, famous for the ferocious and well documented storm which will strike from the East on 5th September". QUICK CUT.
Dare I say this is a Wes Anderson film for Wes Anderson fans or will I be burned at the stake for stating such heresy? Moonrise Kingdom has damn near everything albeit without his trademark slow motion ending and the inclusion of a Rolling Stones track but this tangled bitter sweet tale of young love is peppered with deep characters trying to find love, beauty, redemption or even simply just a friend who will love them for who they really are. The Oscar nominated screenplay was written by Director Anderson and Roman Coppola and is a real treat to behold and how Anderson himself wasn't nominated for Best Director or indeed his Editor or Director of Photography for this masterpiece only God herself knows. The editing from Andrew Weisblum is the finest yet in a Wes Anderson film and it has to be to tie the twisted narrative together and regular Director of Photography Robert Yeoman again showcases the tight knit chemistry he shares with the Director's vision. Of the scenes not already referenced, look out for Sam and Suzy's first meeting in the wheat field (before obligatory straight on extreme close ups on each), the long distance shot of their stroll away from the same field, the numerous forest scenes as they make their escape, the beach scenes and particularly the night time scenes later in the film. These truly mark the continuing genius of Robert Yeoman. Continuing with the behind the scenes crew, Alexandre Desplat was also criminally overlooked at the 2013 Oscars for his beautiful cinematic score that leaned heavily on the works of Benjamin Britten and accompanies the film so well. The film's lean running time of only 94 minutes (another Wes Anderson trademark is his concise running times) flashes by in a blur of detailed narrative structure and a flurry of his trademark quirks and touches, of split screen shots, flashbacks, numerous overhead shots, extreme close ups and beautifully sublime rolling camera shots. This is Wes Anderson at his very, very best and if you haven't got a tear in your eye as Suzy blows her young love a kiss towards the end of this masterpiece, then you have a heart far harder than mine.
The film is inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig (who is thanked in the closing credits) but Anderson and fellow writer Hugo Guinness deserve an Oscar nomination for their surreal screenplay and for the poetic, dancing dialogue given to Ralph Fiennes and Jeff Goldblum, both of whom pull of their linguistic treats to perfection but more of this later. Robert Yeoman's cinematography is again inspired, adding to the picture book texture of the film and combined with Adam Stockhausen's production design and miniature models provide so many endearing and effective cinematic shots that deserve Oscar recognition in 2015 but the same can be said for Milena Canonero's wonderful array of costumes that truly are a centre piece of the film, Anna Pinnock's set decoration and Stephen Gessler's art direction are all worthy of recognition and in Oscar circles, if it's The Grand Budapest's year in 2015, all will be worthy recipients of the prized statue. The film is such an incredible achievement Wes Anderson's entire behind the scenes crew deserve special praise for realising an astonishing looking film that enchants you with every watch, but a final nod goes to Film Editor Barney Pilling for weaving together three differing timelines, so many narrative strands and of course, the long held Wes Anderson trademarks which proliferate the film and work so wonderfully well as ever.
In front of the camera is a real ensemble cast of returning actors from previous Anderson films or A-List first timers that each portray highly original character creations that I will briefly appraise later. But to whet your appetite we have, in no particular order, a dastardly double dealing Frenchman, a vicious German enforcer, a spurned son, a pompous writer, a heavily tattooed yet loquacious prison inmate, an equally loquacious lawyer, a bizarre local Captain of the Military, a beautiful pastry chef, several surreal concierges, one strident, wistful, foul mouthed yet sweet tongued lothario who also occasionally acts as a concierge, oh, and a Lobby Boy named Zero! All of whom are in the very capable hands of Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, F Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Mathieu Amalric, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Tony Revolori, and returning favourites Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman. There follows a brief opening paragraph to set the scene, a dissection of one of the film's five acts and a brief overview of the cast of characters before I leave you to watch this surreal joy over and over again:
The opening frame of the film sets the tone and immediately you're aware this is a Wes Anderson film! All three time periods of 1985, 1968 and 1932 were shot in different aspect ratios to suitably reflect the change in period so don't adjust your set! The film has a continuing narration throughout however the narrator changes with the time period and firstly in 1985 we have the bizarre spectacle of "Author" (Tom Wilkinson) narrating direct to camera whilst being shot at by his son with an air gun! We now jump back to 1968 and the second of our narrators "Young Writer" (Jude Law) who details the demise of the once opulent and highly regarded Grand Budapest Hotel, located in Zubrowka, a fictional European town high in the hills and formerly a hive of activity that attracted only the very wealthy prior to the outbreak of war in the 1930's. But here in 1968 it is now rather decrepit and a monument to a bygone age but which still retains it character and remnants of it's more luxurious past and now houses singular visitors who keep themselves to themselves whilst passing through. The Young Writer is want to stand "elbow to elbow" of an evening with "M.Jean" (Jason Schwartzman) the hotel's current incumbent in the role of concierge and returning Schwartzman is excellently bizarre in a small cameo role. M.Jean alerts the young writer to the exception to the visitors who pass nominally through the hotel, "Mr Moustafa" (F Murray Abraham) the current owner of the hotel, and through "fate" the young writer is able to ask the scene setting question to Mr Moustafa of how he came to own such a grand building with such grand history and with such a grand tale to tell? The particular tale Mr Moustafa tells is of intrigue, suspense, murder, philandering and of colourful characters in very colourful and bizarre circumstances. It's also a tale of young love, a Lobby Boy named Zero and a loquacious concierge who came to own the priceless painting of "Boy With Apple" and the story is told, indeed narrated, over an evening meal between the two men as they dine in the huge, imposing dining hall of the Grand Budapest Hotel.
Wes Anderson's masterpiece is split into five parts (each with it's own title slide naturally!) and are occasionally preceded by a slight change in the colour palette of the film. All Anderson hallmarks are present and correct: overhead shots, extreme close ups on books, paintings, newspapers, sepia tinged photographs, together with beautiful rolling camera shots, surreal inserts (look out for the cloakroom ticket!), plus there's the obligatory "man hanging out of a window" shot that has appeared in nearly all of his films. The picture book style of the film is an absolute joy, the narrative blending with the bizarre character creations perfectly and every frame has been meticulously planned to the nth degree. But what impresses me time and time again in Anderson's eight cinematic offering are the small segments of scenes not seen in his previous works. The multi doors sweeping open as we approach the reading of the will and "Zero" (Tony Revolori) about to commence the obligatory reading of the concierge letter and poem before the staff's evening meal but an instant cutaway to an imprisoned "M.Gustave" (Ralph Fiennes) and his surreal reading of the letter whilst surrounded by unemotional fellow inmates and prison officers are two examples of many. The chase in the Kunstmuseum is just phenomenal and a credit to the genius Director of Photography Robert Yeoman, as is the prison escape sequence and only surpassed by the acting and prose delivered by Tony Revolori and Ralph Fiennes at it's touching, yet amusing denouement. These are but minor examples of so many brilliant scenes devised and shot through the prism of Messrs Anderson and Yeoman lens but even these are topped by a Wes Anderson staple, but with a twist! The film's touching love story centres on Zero and the beautiful "Agatha" (Saoirse Ronan) and during their early courtship they enjoy a merry-go-round ride that is simply shot and ended with an Anderson hallmark of a straight on extreme close up on Agatha but rather than an unemotional shot (as is the norm) she is bright eyed and smiling. All five parts or acts of the film are an absolute joy but here is my brief dissection on the one I believe contains Wes Anderson's film making at it's very best with so many comedic and surrealistic touches, many further characters introduced and Ralph Fiennes on Oscar winning form. Here is Part 4 "The Society of the Crossed Keys"
This penultimate part of the story is 15 minutes in length, containing roughly 8 segments with some considerably longer than others and it's flat out brilliant storytelling containing everything you could wish for from the Director. The opening segment is pure Wes Anderson as numerous concierges make numerous respective telephone calls all interspersed with extreme close ups of a postcard representing their respective hotel and whilst making these calls they are front and centre of the screen and framed inside a spotlight! Finally we cut to M.Gustave and Zero sitting atop a large hay bale at dusk with M.Gustave ruminating on their current predicament as well as the story to date. There are two people missing, one person dead, two ruthless thugs on their trail, one stolen painting and "Zero, confused!". At this juncture a car from the Hotel Excelsior Palace screeches to a halt.
"M.Ivan" (Bill Murray) is the concierge of the Hotel Excelsior Palace and a personal friend of M.Gustave. With Murray in close up (as per picture opposite) he confirms where French concierge "Serge X" (Mathieu Amalric) is and that he's pulled some strings and managed, just, to secure a 3rd class carriage ticket for M.Gustave and Zero on an incoming train and last, but by no means least, he's brought along a half ounce of M.Gustave's favourite cologne, L'air De Panache! As the train arrives from right of the frame, the car arrives from the left and our heroes quickly run for the train. We cut to an Anderson hallmark of an overhead shot, this time of a table containing pictures of M.Gustave, Agatha, a camera, a magnifying glass, bullets, a Mendls cake slip, a hand and a telephone. On the telephone is "Jopling" (Willem Dafoe) and he receives his next dastardly mission from his employer "Dmitri" (Adrien Brody) but we cut to Dmitri, angry as ever, descending the stairs of his home before dumping a huge volume of documents on a nearby snooker table. A quick cut later we see an extreme close up of a torn page from a journal containing text and a picture of "Boy With Apple" before we cut back to Dmitri as he takes a drink and looks up to admire the said priceless picture on his wall. However.......
A rather different picture hangs in it's place! An already angry Dmitri now releases a hilarious tirade of vulgarities before he's alerted to the fact that a certain M.Gustave removed it and he proceeds to take the offending picture off the wall and smashes it to pieces! We cut to a wonderful brief scene of M.Gustave and Zero on board the train and lying in their bunks which is shot from above, then from a camera on each of our heroes before returning to an above shot as Zero comically warns M.Gustave away from flirting with his girlfriend! In between is yet another beautifully poetic and lyrical set of prose from M.Gustave on the merits and de-merits of Serge X although "that doesn't mean I'm not going to throttle the little swamp rat!" before offering to officiate at Agatha and Zero's impending wedding, remarking how delightful she is despite her birthmark and working for the cake maker Mendl although he "looms over her like a hulking gorilla". It's one of many priceless eloquent and poetic speeches from M.Gustave. We cut briefly to Agatha, seemingly packing in a hurry before hearing a thudding sound above her loft room. She checks but finds nothing and as she closes the ceiling window latch, the scene ends.
We cut to yet another extreme close up of a newspaper headline which reads "LOCAL GIRLS HEAD FOUND IN LAUNDRY BASKET" and then to Military Captain "Henckels" (Edward Norton) reading the said newspaper before being interrupted by a soldier with a telegram. The telegram appears to come from Zero to Agatha but of more importance is the basket relating to the newspaper headline the Captain is reading. An extreme close up of the severed head is accompanied by doom laden music before we cut to another screen of rolling text confirming we are near "Gabelmeisters Peak" and the destination of M.Gustave and Zero. However we find Jopling inspecting a bloody piece of paper whilst his motorbike is being refuelled. Jopling ignores the questions from the young pump attendant, take a sip from his flask and motors away. We cut to a further brief scene of the train entering the station however as the narrator (now Mr Mustafa) informs us, he and M.Gustave disembarked prior to arrival thus avoiding the waiting military, however Henckels smells a rat and more importantly, M.Gustave's L'air De Panache! M.Gustave and Zero are met by a monk who tells them to get on the next cable car and the film again has a comic book or story book feel as the two journey from one cable car to the next before arriving at Gabelmeisters Peak.
Being asked repeatedly "Are you Monsieur Gustave of the Grand Budapest Hotel of Nebelsbad" is beginning to grate on M.Gustave however it's building the comedic effect brilliantly and after both he and Zero change into their respective monk's habits they are requested to go to the confession box. Inside they find Serge X and with both brilliant dialogue and remarkable cutting between the two the tension and the narrative is built to a crescendo. Serge X confirms a great many things but during the frenetic cuts back and forth between the two concierges he confirms that a second will was created in the event of the deceased lady's death and that he alone has a copy. Despite his help and with both the Military and Jopling on his tail, M.Gustave can take the suspense longer, exploding to comedic effect:
"What does it say? Where is it? What's it all about dammit? Don't keep us in suspense Serge.
This has been a complete fucking nightmare.
Just tell us what the fuck is going on!"
Unfortunately for Serge X he has met a grisly demise before he can answer and it's quickly evident who the culprit was as we see Jopling, dressed in a monk's habit rush out of the chamber. Several quick cuts later we see Jopling strapping on ski's to make his escape and Zero, pushing a statue of an angel from a sledge, grabs M.Gustave to make their pursuit. What follows is pure Wes Anderson, both in terms of the story book/picture book quality to the chase and the events that unravel as first the chase is a simple downhill snow chase through skiing gates, followed by a ski jump and finally onto a toboggan course with varying camera angles such as the above picture and from a high camera above this surreal chase. It culminates with our heroes crashing through the finishing line and Zero, encased in snow with only his boots visible and M.Gustave clinging to an icebound cliff edge. Taking a sip from his flask, Jopling walks past the stricken Zero and towards the edge of the cliff and begins stamping on the icy edge.
"If this do be me end, farewell, cried the wounded piper boy whilst the muskets cracked and the yeoman roared Hurrah and the ramparts fell. Methinks we breathes me last, said he....."
"Holy shit! You got him!"
"Well done Zero!"
After hauling M.Gustave from the precipice and ignoring the orders from the watching Military Captain across the ice bound cliffs, Zero has a plan that involves a motorbike, a painting, Agatha and an escape to sunnier climes and, following a surreal and comedic moment of silence for a fallen servant, our heroes make their escape amidst a hail of bullets and the brilliant, surreal and supremely funny part 4 of this 5 part masterpiece comes to a conclusion.
(Ralph Fiennes) Busy yet meticulous concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel in the 1930's who has a penchant for fine wine, blonde haired older ladies and L'air de Penache'. Has a wonderful linguistic use of English and a lothario who calls everyone, regardless of sex as "darling". A stellar performance worthy of a 2015 Oscar.
Zero (Tony Revolori) Zero experience and zero family and friends. Deeply in love with his beloved Agatha but don't you dare flirt with her! Following numerous roles in TV and short films, this is Tony's first major role and many more are sure to follow this accomplished performance.
(Jude Law) Well spoken writer, English Gentleman, European traveller and one of the film's numerous narrators who's told an incredible tale in an incredible dining room in an incredible film. A cameo yet important role from Law.
(F Murray Abraham) Quiet and unassuming owner of The Grand Budapest Hotel who remains utterly devoted to Agatha, deeply misses his "brother" and has an intriguing tale to tell. It maybe a cameo role but it's F Murray Abraham - what else do you need to know?
Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) Owner of Zero's heart, saviour and bravest of the film's eclectic and surreal cast of characters and she's far more than a mere "pastry chef". Atonement, The Lovely Bones and now The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ronan's star is on the rise and justifiably so.
Henckels (Edward Norton) Surreal Captain of the Local Military who is big on moustaches, quizzical looks and very definitely not "Little Albert" anymore! A priceless cameo from the ever dependable Edward Norton. "Nobody move. Everybody's under arrest".
Ludwig (Harvey Keitel) Heavily tattooed prison inmate who can see the vulnerability of their "flop house" and impresses M.Gustave with his artistic talents. Only included here as he's a cherished actor I greatly admire and can drive any distance in just nine minutes and thirty seven seconds!
(Jeff Goldblum) An eloquent, elegant and operatic cameo from a deadpan and utterly brilliant Goldblum as a conflicted but straight as a die lawyer. But please, don't mention his cat!
Jopling (Willem Dafoe) Ruthless family enforcer who is also a remarkably accomplished motorbike rider and Olympic skier! An almost wordless performance but there's nothing quiet or subtle about Jopling's methods of disposal. Another returnee to an Anderson film and another accomplished and important cameo from Dafoe.
Supporting these premier roles are many more fleeting and cameo roles from Mathieu Amalric as a strangely staring French concierge "Serge X", Bill Murray as the ever helpful "M.Ivan", Jason Schwartzman as the comical concierge "M.Jean", Tilda Swinton as the ill fated and fabulously wealthy "Madame D", Owen Wilson as concierge "M.Chuck", Florian Lukas as "Pinky", Karl Markovics from the utterly brilliant and highly recommended film of 2007 The Counterfeiters as "Wolf", a returning Bob Balaban as "M.Martin" and fellow returnees to a Wes Anderson film of Wallace Wolodarsky as concierge "M.George" and Waris Ahluwalia as concierge "M.Dino".
A truly stellar and ensemble cast in a wonderfully spellbinding film that showcases the very best in the Director of this magnum opus of a love in, Wes Anderson. I cannot recommend his films enough and The Grand Budapest may be his best yet and come 2015, hopefully he will receive further Oscar recognition to go with this particular film fan's total admiration for his vision and desire to produce visually stunning pieces of cinematic art.