What’s the Big Deal About Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel? Matt Zoller Seitz’s Video Essay Explains

Toward the end of 2013, we fea­tured a series of video essays by Matt Zoller Seitz on the films of Wes Ander­son. They first came out to accom­pa­ny The Wes Ander­son Col­lec­tion, the crit­ic’s cof­fee-table ret­ro­spec­tive of that auteur of whim­si­cal hand­craft­ed films’ career to date — to the date of late 2013, any­way. Even then, fans had already geared them­selves up in antic­i­pa­tion of the then-immi­nent release of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ander­son­’s eighth and lat­est pic­ture, which at the moment has resur­faced in awards-sea­son buzz.

The dimin­ish­ing num­ber of you who have proven still imper­vi­ous to Ander­son­’s pecu­liar brand of movie mag­ic might, actu­al­ly, feel you’ve heard a bit too much about The Grand Budapest Hotel over the past year or so. What, pray tell, is the big deal? Here to answer that ques­tion, we have Zoller Seitz’s brand new video essay on Ander­son­’s tale of that tit­u­lar once-grand moun­tain hotel and the 20th-cen­tu­ry Europe of the imag­i­na­tion (even­tu­al­ly giv­ing way to the 20th-cen­tu­ry Europe of his­to­ry) that swirls around and through it.

“All of Wes Ander­son­’s films are come­dies,” says Zoller Seitz, “and none are.” Through­out the fol­low­ing fif­teen min­utes, he ana­lyzes exact­ly how, with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ander­son climbs to the top of both of his per­son­al twin peaks of friv­o­li­ty and seri­ous­ness — or seri­ous­ness expressed through friv­o­li­ty, or vice ver­sa. In the direc­tor’s “most struc­tural­ly ambi­tious film,” we see not just lay­ers of com­e­dy and melan­choly but of his­to­ry, lit­er­a­ture, artistry, and anx­i­ety, all tied in with the Ander­son­ian char­ac­ters’ end­less quest to mas­ter their own sense of loss by mas­ter­ing the world around them — which Ander­son shows us, to a fuller extent in The Grand Budapest Hotel, than in any of his live-action movies before, with his own mas­tery of the world he and his col­lab­o­ra­tors cre­ate.

For anoth­er look into what this requires in film­mak­ing terms, see also “Here’s How Wes Ander­son Uses Mat­te Paint­ings in His Incred­i­ble Set Designs” by The Cre­ators Pro­jec­t’s Beck­ett Muf­son. That inter­view with Grand Budapest Hotel mat­te painter Simone de Sal­va­tore reveals, by look­ing at just one aspect of the whole, how much goes into the design of a Wes Ander­son pro­duc­tion. View­ers who love Ander­son­’s pic­tures, of course, love them in large part for exact­ly that, and even view­ers who hate them have to con­cede their impec­ca­bil­i­ty on that count. Both groups now have only to wait for this Sun­day to see how the Acad­e­my feels about it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Per­fect Sym­me­try of Wes Anderson’s Movies

A Glimpse Into How Wes Ander­son Cre­ative­ly Remixes/Recycles Scenes in His Dif­fer­ent Films

Watch Wes Anderson’s Charm­ing New Short Film, Castel­lo Cav­al­can­ti, Star­ring Jason Schwartz­man

Wes Anderson’s First Short Film: The Black-and-White, Jazz-Scored Bot­tle Rock­et (1992)

Watch 7 New Video Essays on Wes Anderson’s Films: Rush­more, The Roy­al Tenen­baums & More

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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