Analyzing the Grand Budapest Hotel Trailer

Despite my love for all things Wes Anderson (well, almost all things), I haven’t really been following the development of The Grand Budapest Hotel. That’s not down to a lack of interest; I simply didn’t expect that there would be much reason to follow it yet. Last I heard, just a few months ago, it sounded like the casting was still being finalized. Then, this past week, boom, a trailer:

Maybe it’s just me, but it felt a lot like this project went from “I have an idea” to “Here ya go, finished the movie while you weren’t looking” pretty quickly. I’m not complaining. I’m actually thrilled. It’s slated for a March release, and the trailer looks fantastic.

Anyway, since I analyzed the Moonrise Kingdom trailer what feels like only yesterday, I figured I’d do something similar here as well. Actually I hope you’ll do most of the work for me in the comments; unlike with Moonrise Kingdom, there aren’t any major themes that I feel confident picking out of the scenes on display here.

With the disclaimer that this article will therefore be terrible and worthless, let’s begin.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

From the very first shot of the trailer, we know we’re squarely within Anderson territory. That’s absolutely his uniquely selective eye at work in the color, and it’s just hideously gorgeous. The starkness of the red, the flatness of the purple. It’s like minimalist art that only resolves itself into live action when somebody moves.

Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori seem to play the main characters in this film, and their relationship gets explained later on in the trailer. For now, we get some sketchy but familiar setup: a young man aspires to a position that seems to mean a lot more to him than it does to anyone else. In this case, it’s being a lobby boy at The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Fiennes, for what it’s worth, plays Gustave H., and Revolori plays Zero, which is about as on-the-nose as any Anderson name has ever been.

Zero is already wearing his lobby boy outfit, but we find out in a moment that he’s a “junior lobby boy in training.” It’s hard to imagine a more demeaning title, but something tells me Zero cherishes it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

If you somehow didn’t realize you were watching a Wes Anderson trailer before, you definitely will now. Our next shot is his signature “Eye of God” perspective, gazing fixedly down at the lobby of the Grand Budapest.

The music that kicks in here got me very excited, as it sounds a lot like the work of Mark Mothersbaugh. However it looks like Alexandre Desplat is actually composing this one again, and I should probably give up hope that Mothersbaugh will ever come back for a full score.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Anderson’s films lose so much without that man on the soundtrack. I’m positive it will be good, but I’m also positive that his absence will continue to be felt.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

There’s a nice little montage of the carefully composed austerity of the Grand Budapest, and I don’t have much to say about it apart from the fact that it’s fantastic. I had a hard time choosing which snatch of footage to highlight here, but ultimately I chose this one because LOOK AT THAT PAINTING MY GOD THIS MOVIE.

The hotel setting is an important one to Anderson, for whatever reason. I was going to mention this in a later installment of Steve Zissou Saturdays (probably in April, 2034) but it’s kind of a running theme for him. It’s where the budding criminals hunker down in Bottle Rocket, it’s where Mr. Blume goes after his wife kicks him out in Rushmore, it’s where Royal Tenenbaum goes after his wife kicks him out in The Royal Tenenbaums, and it’s where Team Zissou goes to rescue their bond company stooge in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Then, of course, there was Hotel Chevalier, which was the supporting feature for The Darjeeling Limited.

Anderson finally basing one of his films around a hotel — at least in terms of its title and setup — feels more than natural; it’s inevitable.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Every shot in this trailer is blocked masterfully. I just wanted to say that.

This seems to be Gustave exchanging pleasantries with his lover, though I can’t be sure if he’s romancing several elderly women throughout the trailer, or if they’re all the same one that ends up dead. They all look alike to me because I’m a big ageist bastard.

Let’s take a moment, though, to just admire Gustave here. Because my goodness. The bow tie. The mustache. The tiny shirt buttons. The lapel pins. This is why I love Anderson’s movies. This image right here. You can pause just about anywhere, and sit back, and admire.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

See what I mean?

We learn that Gustave’s lover was 84 years old, but was “dynamite in the sack.” We also learn of the romance, or at least infatuation, between Zero and Agatha, played by the gorgeous Saoirse Ronan. I can’t make out the book she’s reading here, and that disappoints me for reasons I’d be ashamed to discuss any further.

Zero’s hands on the carousel horse’s face are a perfect touch. It’s so wonderfully, vaguely inappropriate, and yet disarmingly innocent.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

We then get a lovely shot of Agatha from Zero’s point of view, with the carnival lights blurred behind her. However we also see her birth-mark, which taken in tandem with the joke about Gustave having sex with an old woman is slightly worrying.

I say slightly and I stand by it, because I understand that trailers are edited to make these tiny comic moments seem larger than they are; I doubt Wes Anderson made a movie that coasts on the joke of flawed people fucking.

Still, though, it’s the kind of thing I’d worry about in somebody else’s hands…that we’d get a scene that degenerates into Austin Powers “Moley moley moley” territory.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

A moment later, Gustave discourages Zero from pursuing his curiosity about the birth mark. I hope it’s a lesson he learns quickly.

That little dismissive finger gesture, by the way, is the moment that cemented for me that Ralph Fiennes belongs in a Wes Anderson film. Not that I had doubted it before…it’s just nice to see it confirmed so ultimately.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Zero, narrating, discusses his relationship with Gustave: Zero was to be his pupil, and Gustave was to be his counselor and guardian. The mentor-protege relationship is another career-long Anderson theme, and I wouldn’t be surprised if “surrogate father” is the unspoken third role Gustave takes on. The mere usage of the term guardian suggests that, but of course it could be meant in another sense, considering the violence we see later in the trailer.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Gustave is informed that the police wish to speak with him, and there’s a lovely, loaded silence before he agrees to see them. I love the quiet, blank expressiveness of Zero’s face, too.

I’m so excited to see this movie…probably even more excited than I was about Moonrise Kingdom. That movie was great, but it also felt warm and comforting. The Grand Budapest Hotel already feels kinetic and dangerous, and that’s going to be a very interesting contrast.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Anderson takes a moment to prove that the titles for Saddest Crime Scene Photo and Funniest Crime Scene Photo don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

We then get the single funniest moment of the trailer, in which Gustave calmly suggests that his lover’s been murdered and that he’s a suspect. He then turns on his heels and flees the police who are standing with their hands clasped harmlessly behind them.

This is gorgeous stuff. This is so perfect that if they decided to destroy all copies of the film tomorrow, I’d still be content to just rewatch the trailer endlessly. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to pull anything of substance from it, but I’d have a heck of a lot of fun trying.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Anyone want to turn this into an enormous print to hang on my wall? Christmas is coming…

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Or maybe I was wrong; the “I want some” speech by Gustave here is just hilariously, awfully, sincerely perfect. It made me look up the screenwriting credits on this film, and it looks like it’s just Anderson himself.

I think this is the first film that he wrote alone, which is surprising. The sometimes “gaggy” nature of this trailer made me wonder which co-writer was bringing that to the mix. Turns out it’s just our man Wes himself. And I kind of love him more for that. I love that one of my favorite living artists is channeling his inner Fozzie Bear.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is another moment I just needed to pause and appreciate. Look how impeccably composed this shot of Jeff Goldblum is. No element of this scene seems compatible with any other, and yet it’s so careful and deliberate. The rounded wall with the flat picture of the pig hanging on it. The candle sticks of different heights. A piano on the left and a stuffed bear on the right. I adore this.

We also learn that the dead lover is named Madame D. So I’ll just look up who plays her and…

…Tilda Swinton? Really? That was her? I honestly didn’t know that until this very moment. That’s some makeup job.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Madame D. leaves Gustave H. a painting called Boy With Apple. This seems to be an important element of the film, and it’s possibly what sets the entire plot in motion.

Also, note the mirror there. A later moment “mirrors” this one, with a magnifying glass.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Adrien Brody plays a man called Dmitri, but you’d never know it from his accent. I’m not complaining, but there you go.

He gets into a spat with Gustave H. that devolves into a slapsticky sequence of knock-outs. The Grand Budapest Hotel may turn out to be Anderson’s silliest film yet, but it feels so much like Anderson that I’m more thrilled by the possibility than wary of it. By all means, let the man make his comedy.

At the end of the sequence we get a chilling turn toward the camera from Willem Dafoe, which sort of complicates the humor of the sequence we just witnessed. Yes please.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

There’s that magnifying glass. Agatha seems to be in danger, or could potentially be. It’s something to do with the whereabouts of Boy With Apple, so Zero gives her a note written in code that tells her where to find it.

She expresses some understandable reluctance to be dragged into the affair, and then we see Zero and Gustave replacing Boy With Apple with this:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Yep. This’ll be his silliest movie yet.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Some more fantastic blocking, and I especially love the way the policeman points in just such a way to the men on his right, and then shifts and points in exactly the same way to the men on his left.

And is there anything better than seeing people getting bossed around by a man they can only see from the chest up?

No. No there’s not.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

We see Bill Murray shouting for someone to get into his vehicle and a few more shots of somebody on the run. No idea who is running, or why, or from whom, which leaves the manic second half of this trailer feeling a bit directionless. That’s not a problem, but it does make the trajectory of the plot feel a little unclear at this point. Unlike the relatively straight-forward Moonrise Kingdom, I think even the most obsessive fan would find it difficult to make any confident guesses about the direction this film will take.

We also see a group of prisoners tapping away at the bars on their window in unison, presumably to very gradually chisel through. The sillier it gets, the more I can’t wait for the movie to floor me, and very likely break my heart.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

There’s a bunch of quick shots of the actors that hearkens back to the opening titles for The Royal Tenenbaums, and I almost wonder if we won’t get something similar at the start of this film. There are a lot of nice freeze frames here so by all means pause every one of them.

I just wanted to highlight the one above because we’re being promised that at some point we’ll see a shirtless Harvey Keitel covered in gang tattoos. If that doesn’t merit a special mention, I don’t know what does.

Oh, and this sequence reveals to me that the policeman in the floor is played by Edward Norton. YES.

Sorry, I promised analysis but I’m just gushing. So: Edward Norton played Scoutmaster Ward in Moonrise Kingdom and he was brilliant so YES.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

“You can’t arrest him simply because he’s a bloody immigrant” is another of those great, backhanded lines that it seems like Gustave H. will be full of. There’s a surprisingly raw scene of physical battery that results in bloody noses for poor Gustave and his lobby boy, and then a lot of shots of…um…shots being fired.

There’s also Gustave in prison, Willem Dafoe angrily skiing, and Zero in disguise. I am more than a little happy that the trailer actually sees it fit to downplay the action, spending longer stretches on the dialogue, awkward pauses, and beautifully framed shots of doomed relationships. What should potentially be the most exciting thing in the film — the catalyst that brings all of this chaos raining down — is barely even alluded to.

Because that’s not as important as who these characters are. How they act. And what they see when they look in the mirror.

Well fucking done.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The trailer ends with a great scene of Gustave being dismissive and impatient while Zero tells him about his experience under torture. The punchline to the scene is also a lovely button on the trailer itself.

The interplay between these two characters — both of whom are played by newcomers to Anderson’s world — looks like it’s going to be some standout stuff. I genuinely cannot wait to see the finished product.

And so ends my analysis, devoid of analysis. With so little context I’m unable to dig very deep. But I am able to be primed absolutely for an unrivaled night out at he movies. And frankly, at the end of the day, that’s what I’d prefer.

Roll on March 2014.

Analyzing the Moonrise Kingdom Trailer

As of this writing (April 22) the released footage from Moonrise Kingdom amounts to no more than a trailer, and three exclusive clips drizzled around the internet. Each of the clips are under a minute long and don’t really demonstrate much beyond the fact that Wes Anderson is absolutely at his most Wes Andersony…and that it’s still a beautiful thing. We’ll touch on those below, but only in passing, as this is a look at the official trailer for the film.

If you are interested in seeing the clips, you can watch them here, here and here. No spoilers, apart from what we already know from the trailer, but, as always, watch at your own risk. And please link me if you know of any other footage I missed.

In summary, yeah, this looks pretty fantastic. Growing up has always been one of Anderson’s favorite themes, though this looks like it will tackle the issue head on for the first time since Rushmore. (It was skirted in The Royal Tenenbaums by using childhood as a mechanism for gauging how far the characters have fallen, and subverted by The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited by presenting us only with a view of their adult lives, leaving us to piece together what got them there.)

It looks lovely, brilliantly dreary and evocatively sad, with a late summertime feel, just before all that wonderful freedom falls away and it’s time to get back to school. There’s also no strong clue as to the film’s reappropriated pop songs (at least not to me…can anyone identify the French song in the trailer?), so that should make for a nice surprise, but it does sound like the soundtrack is pulling toward a sort of classical Gothic dirge. With this, I am both fine and in love.

Here’s what else we see in the trailer:

No. I said, what kind of bird are you?

An absolutely beautiful moment opens the trailer, with Jared Gilman declaring his affection for Kara Hayward the only way Wes Anderson’s characters know how: by saying something different entirely. It’s a wonderful way to open the trailer — and it’s safe to say that it comes pretty close to the beginning of the film as well — and it suggests that Anderson might have struck gold again with a young actor in Gilman. His last major discovery of a young actor was Jason Schwartzman, and that sure as hell worked out pretty well. In fact, Anderson has an eye for young actors, or is at least much more careful in vetting them than his contemporaries, because I’m not sure I’ve ever been annoyed by any of the little scamps darting around in the sidelines of his films, whereas usually they detract by default and you need to work to overlook them. (The little girl who plays Grace in Bottle Rocket is admittedly distractingly unskilled at being an actress, but since then he’s had a pretty strong streak in casting the young.) It will be interesting to see how this one pans out. We don’t get to see much of Hayward in the trailer, so it’s more difficult to gauge her performance, but that’s okay…Gilman’s taken away my concern for both of them.

Turn right, and follow to the end.

The love birds (get it…?) plot their escape over several quick flashes of communication and preparation, which I suspect is lifted more or less wholesale from the film and isn’t trimmed much here. Their one-word exchanges are typical of Anderson characters, and the fact that they took time to write such simple letters — and to communicate in a less personal way, thereby remaining guarded — hearken back to both Ned’s pre-addressing of 50 envelopes for Jane to correspond with him in The Life Aquatic, and Richie’s blunt communications by telegram in The Royal Tenenbaums, in which he says things he’s only comfortable saying because he knows he’s several layers removed from the rest of the world. The sharp cuts are all beautifully framed and demonstrate that Anderson hasn’t lost his flair — or compulsion — to make even his briefest visual statements hit both deep and hard. Gilman’s instructions to Hayward, along with what we actually see him doing, tap directly into the things he’s learned in the Khaki Scouts, and it’s going to be fun to piece together their lessons and routines from the way we’ll see them exploited…much as we were able to do with Team Zissou.

Who’s missing?

Camp Ivanhoe. Yeah, one of the things that worries me — in fact, the only thing that worries me, and it’s a pretty small worry — is the title of this film. Moonrise Kingdom doesn’t feel particularly evocative of anything…or, rather, it feels like it’s trying a little too hard to be evocative. Bottle Rocket was a metaphorical title referring to Dignan’s bright — but always brief — burning for change, Rushmore was named after the academy Max attended (and also served as a metaphor for personal ambition), The Royal Tenenbaums was a gloriously two-sided title, referring both to the family as a whole and their lost regal status, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou evokes both images of sea life and life upon the sea, not to mention life itself, The Darjeeling Limited is named after a fucking train so, okay, that one sucks too, and Fantastic Mr. Fox was the title Roald Dahl chose and was the least of that film’s worries anyway. But Moonrise Kingdom just feels to me like it deserves to be attached to a forgettable Mickey Mouse video game than a Wes Anderson film. I reserve the right to change my mind immediately upon seeing the film, of course, but calling the Boy Scout analogue “Khaki Scouts” feels like something they’d do in a Saturday Night Live skit because they didn’t have any time to think of something better. A bit of a disappointment there, albeit an early and easily corrected one. Camp Ivanhoe, on the other hand, is legitimately hilarious.

Jiminy Cricket! He flew the coop!

Another bird reference here, which, I hope, will be carried through as a complete theme. We also see Edward Norton for the first time as the scoutmaster, and it’s pretty immediately apparent that he’s playing a live action Ned Flanders. If anyone could do that, it’s Edward Norton, so I’m more than happy enough if that turns out to be the case. His expletive substitutes may well turn out to be annoying, but Anderson’s quite good at measuring out his quirk just enough that it’s cohesive, but never so much that it’s overbearing, or unconsciously annoying. Norton has the potential to be a great addition to Anderson’s growing assembly of actors, so I’m interested to see how this pans out.

Does it concern you that your daughter has just run away from home?

Frances McDormand’s bullhorn is a bit disconcerting. What I said above about Norton’s profanity-free obscenities holds true here, as I do think Anderson is fully capable of regulating these personal crutches and affectations so that they have the correct impact, but the bullhorn feels a bit obvious, and he’ll have a much tougher time keeping that from getting annoying. It could work in the same way that Chas Tenenbaum’s matching track suits work as a method of keeping his children immediately identifiable in a crowd — and therefore safer and easier to reach should anything happen — but if the bullhorn charts the same territory then I’ll be even more doubtful about its necessity. Of course, McDormand is fantastic and will be another great addition to Anderson’s cast. Marrying her character to Bill Murray’s also suggests that she’ll fit more easily into the ensemble than it might seem.

Until help arrives I’m deputizing the little guy, the skinny one, the boy with the patch on his eye, to come with me in the station wagon.

If any name that popped up in the cast list thrilled me outright, it was Bruce Willis. Willis is an extremely capable actor who, unfortunately, does not always get roles that allow him to show off his considerable range. Working as a comic character in a Wes Anderson film is no doubt going to let a lot of his relatively dormant talents run free, and I absolutely love the low-key, ineffectiveness of his uniform. The badge is hardly visible against his unassuming white shirt, and the black tie suggests — presumably correctly — that the police are a mere formality in this town where nothing ever much happens. I like this.

If we find him, I’m not going to be the one who forgot to bring a weapon.

The idea that the manhunt (or boyhunt) might get dangerously out of control is floated in this trailer — and in one of the clips released — but I don’t think it’s going to be a genuine danger in the film, and is more likely to be played for laughs. At least, I hope that’s the case, as preteens actually beating each other senseless with blunt objects would be about the last thing that I’d expect from this movie. Still, it’ll be interesting to watch it unfold, and it’s liable to lend a sense of increasing urgency to the events of the film, in much the same way that the otherwise ineffectual pirate attack caused Steve Zissou to take a stand with his crew — or perhaps that should be the other way around — and ultimately forced him to consider the wisdom of his quest in a way he hadn’t before. Not that the reflection helped anything. For these characters, it never does. And that’s why we love them.

Our only look at Jason Schwartzman in this trailer, but my goodness is it a great one. There’s so much I’d like to say about this single frame, but I won’t do it. I’d cheapen it. Just look at it yourself. Just take a moment — a full minute — to stare at it, to study every detail, and to just immerse yourself in how absolutely fantastic this image is. Let your eyes see everything. Let yourself appreciate it. Because this is a fucking artist at work. Whatever misgivings I might have about what I’m about to see, this is the kind of still frame that makes all of my apprehensions disappear.

I’m told that he’s just been struck by lightning.

Unlike Frances McDormand, I’d kind of preferred Tilda Swinton to have stayed within the Coen brothers talent pool. She’s not bad at all, but she’s the type of actor that I find very distracting. I’d put Jack Nicholson in the same category. They’re great, but it’s difficult to separate them from the characters they’re meant to be playing. Swinton just seems to pulse icy hatred through the air at all times, and while I know that that’s usually what she’s trying to do, I think it’s a little too easy to see her trying to do it. She doesn’t disappear into roles the way others can, including Willis, Norton and McDormand, so I’m a little less interested in seeing more of her character because I can already guess what it will be. In one of the exclusive clips dropped online, it becomes apparent that she’s playing a human version of Miss Finch from Follow That Bird. Unlike Norton’s personification of Ned Flanders, this doesn’t sound like a notable deviation from anything else she’s done, and she’s the one aspect of the casting that, I’m afraid, leaves me cold.

I’ll be out back. I’m gonna find a tree to chop down.

…but whatever concerns I might have outlined above, the real moral of the story is that we end the trailer with a reminder that Wes Anderson knows exactly what the fuck he’s doing. Give me a drunk Bill Murray with an axe, and you’ll have me on your side forever.

Bring on May 25.