April 10, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel and Other Films

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing Wes Anderson's newest film The Grand Budapest Hotel in a little indie theater here in Denver. The film has since been released in the more major theaters around town, but on its release date it was only available at the one tiny 20's era theater where I went to see it. I have to say tiny old theaters that show mostly art films and indie pictures are probably the best place to experience a Wes Anderson feature anyway!

I am a huge Wes Anderson fan to begin with, I love his sense of humor, his use of color, the troupe of actors he brings in for each of his films, and his gorgeous and meticulous shots. I was already destined to love this film, but I am going to go ahead and give a biased review/recommendation anyway. 

The film centers around Mr Gustave H, the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, and his protegee the lobby boy named Zero. Making use of the classic caper style, in the film a painting goes missing, someone has to be sprung from a fortress like jail, there is a brave beautiful pastry chef, and Adrien Brody with a very impressive mustache! The Grand Budapest Hotel also includes three different timelines, a threatening faux Nazi like regime and a quasi Europe on the brink of war in the 1930s. The style of the film is impeccable, just like all of Anderson's previous films, using color and detail to form a beautiful visual experience. The acting, utilizing dozens of both returning players and newcomers to Anderson's films, is excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and I implore you to go and see it!

Two other films I have seen recently that I want to heartily recommend are Only Lovers Left Alive and Byzantium. Both are vampire films, yes you heard me right, vampire films, but are unlike any vampire films you have seen before so stay with me here! after all there is Tom Hiddleston ahead...

I have never seen any of Jim Jarmusch's other films, though apparently he is a long time indie wonder. In his film Only Lovers Left Alive, the lovers in question, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are not the biblical characters their names may suggest but vampires living in the 21st century trying to go as unnoticed as possible. 

Yes this film is slower than your average blockbuster, yes there probably is more style than substance here, but overall the style is great, the music is awesome and the actors are mesmerizing. Enough so that I didn't mind the less than thrill inducing plot line. It is a moody and atmospheric film that does ask interesting questions about how two different minds react to the changing world around them as they endure and the perspective age and wisdom grant. Watch at home with wine and surround sound, I have already downloaded the soundtrack.

Then there is Byzantium, a film which came out in 2012 apparently and I completely missed up until now. 

Starring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton and directed by Interview With a Vampires' Neil Jordan, the film could have easily been just another vampire movie. It seems the world has mostly judged it so as it remains relatively obscure and skipped over. This film is very different from Interview With a Vampire or any other vampire film I have seen. The complicated mother-daughter relationship between Gemma's character Clara and Saoirse's character Eleanor is interesting being both biological and atypical in that both are of course vampires. 

The story finds its roots in regency England were Clara overcomes some pretty awful circumstances and comes out a vampire, the first female vampire ever, giving her the power to save her daughter and make her a vampire too. The whole vampire myth and change in this film is done in a new way which I found original and a nice change. The film is again a bit slower than the slam-bang-crash action people are used to these days but is overall very moody, interesting and well worth watching. Again, as all good vampire fiction does in my opinion, this film asks interesting questions about the nature of immortality and the line between humanity and something more/else. Available to stream on amazon instant video, go forth and enjoy!

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