Took me a long time to get through this, as I kept hitting rewind and pause to savor every detail. It must either thrill or horrify Anderson’s designers, the way he has them make these incredibly attractive and intricate sets, many of which appear on screen for about two seconds. (One of Anderson’s strongest comic methods is the quick cut to and away from something absurd or delicious, like a editorial eye-roll.)
I’ve coincidentally been reading a lot of Stefan Zweig in recent months and have written about him below, so I’ll skip that here, except to say that it makes every sense in the world that Anderson too has come under his spell. (I’m pretty confident he must have read The Post Office Girl before working up this script; the Grand Budapest is the spitting image of the crenellated resort hotel in that novel.) Anderson is always up for mourning and celebrating beauty gone to seed, genius under-appreciated, elegance coarsened by modernity’s boring (and/or murderous) efficiencies. So was Zweig. They’re a nice pair.
It’s not my favorite Wes Anderson (I have a longstanding and slightly mysterious, even to me, obsession with submarines, so that’s that), but it is delightful as always, and it even, very uncharacteristically, permits a tiny germ of historical consciousness to creep in, so that pleased me too.