The Criterion Collection has always had a close relationship with the work of Wes Anderson since first releasing his second feature film, Rushmore, as its 65th entry back in 2000. Since then, Criterion has been periodically adding all the director’s films to its library, with 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel being the latest.
Anderson’s exquisitely crafted story within a story within a story within a story about an extravagant hotel in a fictitious European mountain region is perfectly suited for Criterion, with its meticulous visuals and excellent cast. Beginning in modern day before jumping back to the late 1980s, then the late 1960s, then the early 1930s, Anderson tells a charming little murder mystery centered around the hotel, specifically focusing on its intrepid manager, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), and his friend and the lobby boy of the hotel, Zero, played by Tony Revolori.
Bolstered by its impressive cast, featuring the likes of F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Mathieu Amalric, Tilda Swinton and Bill Murray among others, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film that overwhelmingly exudes Anderson’s trademark charm. It’s wildly funny, containing dozens of quotable bits of dialogue and wonderful sight gags, but, again similar to Anderson’s previous works, occasionally zaps you with a sense of melancholy as we witness the sadness and loss in these colorful characters take shape.
This is all presented in an undeniably pleasing pastiche of color and symmetry, buttressed by a level of detail of which few directors are capable. Each of the four time periods are exhibited in different aspect ratios, with the most prominent being that of the 1.37:1 ratio seen in the ’30s section of the film, causing a more constrained left and right side but allowing for more verticality, something Anderson fully uses to his advantage. It wasn’t until revisiting the film for this Blu-ray review that I was really able to sit back and just marvel at how every shot in this film is composed; it’s truly a thing of beauty and brilliance.
It seems only natural that a film this wonderfully presented would have a fully featured Blu-ray to accompany it, with all the bonus knick-knacks fitting of a Wes Anderson tableau. In addition to all the previously released bonus material form the original Blu-ray release, there are a bevvy of new supplements on the disc, most notably a new commentary track with Anderson, filmmaker Roman Coppola, critic Kent Jones, and actor Jeff Goldblum. There’s also a new documentary about the film, new interviews, and two video essays. Select animatics from the film are also included, a really cool addition and a testament to just how thorough and decisive Wes Anderson is in his filmmaking process.
In the package there’s also several booklets and foldouts that include a 2014 essay by critic Richard Brody, an 1880 essay on European hotel poitiers by Mark Twain, and a mini poster. Even for Criterion, this is an impressive package.
When I first saw The Grand Budapest Hotel in the cinema, I enjoyed it but found the narrative a bit lacking in comparison to some of Anderson’s other titles; but after a second viewing, I’m rethinking these impressions. While it still doesn’t top my list of Anderson favorites (a distinction that will always and forever go to The Royal Tenenbaums), it’s his most impressive technical and stylistic achievement to date and absolutely worth adding to your collection.