Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Marxist Movie Reviews 05: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Marxist Movie Reviews is a series of essays that attempts to look at modern and classic films from the perspective of what they say about society and social conflict.

The Basic Plot: The former lobby-boy of a well-to-do resort/hotel reminisces about his adventures with the hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes) as they become embroiled in a murder investigation and the looming onset of war.

The Best Part(s): Ralph Fiennes' performance, Wes Anderson's direction

Wes Anderson's heavily stylized direction is an ideal fit for this story, which is told in flashback (actually, a flashback in a flashback) and has the dream-like feel of memory. Fiennes' character, who could accurately be called a cad and schemer, is nonetheless also a departure from the usual movies portrayal of the servant class as loyal to a fault or corrupt beyond redemption. He is very much a man in full who has chances to display courage and loyalty along with his ability to get over on his higher-class customers.

The story's focus on a mid-level service provider and his bellhop assistant, with the well-heeled characters relegated to supporting roles, is a rare occurrence in modern cinema that isn't a documentary exposé. Anderson also adds in a subplot about an oncoming war that feels very much like an allusion to World War II, complete with uniformed storm-troopers who menace the population with Gestapo-like tactics and race-based violence. It's an effectively dark backdrop against which to set a fanciful tale. The specter of death from the outside world lurking just around the corner give the story a gravity it wouldn't otherwise have if it was just about the shenanigans of some hotel employees.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 ("Loved It")

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