The first time I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, I laughed, a lot. What a towering puff pastry of a movie! The second and third times I saw the movie, I cried. The whole movie, it hit me, is like a portrait of that puff pastry in the moment before it’s trampled by tanks.
To judge from this new video essay about the movie from New York magazine TV critic and Wes Anderson Collection author Matt Zoller Seitz (who also has a new book about the movie), he had a similar experience. Moments that could seem puzzlingly rushed the first time around—the announcement of Gustave’s demise at the hands of death squads, the offhand mention of Agatha’s death by cause of the “Prussian Grippe”—are only that way because the memories, to the elder Zero (F. Murray Abraham), are too painful to revisit. At some point you come to realize that this kind of repression is precisely what the movie is about: Characters trying to retreat into those “faint glimmers of civilization,” as Gustave calls them, even as their world is besieged by brutish tyrants. Still, those glimmers, such as those puff pastries from Mendl’s, have the power to enchant, and the movie reminds us that’s not nothing. As Zero puts it, in one of the movie’s final lines, “To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it—but, I will say: He certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace.”
In Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson Defends Wes Anderson
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