Today’s post is a tribute to Monsieur Gustave H. in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Ralph Fiennes dazzles as the deliciously camp protagonist in this film, addressing his fellow characters as “darling” or “my dear” throughout. Monsieur Gustave is the saccharine combination of being unashamedly vulgar whilst also representing the impeccably polite and hospitable nature of the early twentieth century Englishman. Whilst running The Grand Budapest Hotel he embodies the magnificent building, from its candy-pink palatial exterior to the affluent aristocracy inside.
I had the pleasure of watching this film last month during my birthday weekend spent in Leeds with friends. We were all horribly hungover, much more ‘drop’ than ‘shop’ as we sauntered around the crowded shopping centre, only to stumble across Leeds Trinity’s Everyman Cinema. It was a hangover haven, a little on the pricey side for a ticket but for the couple of quid extra it was completely worth it. Instead of the stiff and stained seating you find in most multiplexes, Everyman has armchairs with cushions and coffee tables to rest your glass of wine or slice of handmade pizza on. I was worried The Grand Budapest Hotel would be a little sickly-sweet for our delicate states but it was perfect.
A feast for the eyes, Anderson wants his audience to be aware they are watching a film. Much like Tarantino, he opts for chapter titles to signal the different stages of the narrative. His frequent reminders somehow made it a more fun and imaginable experience. I hate it when somebody says ‘that would never happen’ when watching a film. My favourite film makers are the ones that approach it as an art form, they are creating something that is essentially artificial so why not create something incredible? The eccentricities of this film and its characters do slightly border on obscene at points, but the attention to detail regarding the film’s design and staging go down like a glass of champagne.
Monsieur Gustave carries many of the best lines, most notably, as he stands over the corpse of Madame D. and says: “ You’re looking so well darling, you really are. I don’t know what sort of cream they put on you down at the morgue but, I want some.” Certainly, his flamboyance fits with the film’s overall aesthetic, but I like to imagine Monsieur Gustave appearing unexpectedly in an environment not quite up to The Grand Budapest’s standards. Offering a helping hand to Dame Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, swanning through the hallways of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, irritating a grumpy Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. He provides an old form of comedy and delivers it with style, unlike the subtle irony so often seen in today’s films.
Ultimately, Monsier Gustave reminds us, albeit in a rather extreme way, of a European manner that was sadly lost after the war. It would be silly to hope this breed of funny-man makes a comeback, but it was lovely to see Anderson and Fiennes pull it off so well in this beautiful film.