Criterion's The Grand Budapest Hotel is the Pick of the Week

A 2014 Wes Anderson modern classic tops a new week of releases.
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Wes Anderson is one my favorite directors. His films combine quirky characters and deapan humor, but in mostly modern settings. Despite all the comedy, whimsicality, and unpredictability, there is always a subtle emotional streak that lingers underneath. Arguably, I think he has reached his zenith with his 2014 masterwork, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which on the surface seems like a mystery, but oddly enough, it also confronts a very dark side of 20th century European history that was mostly swept under the rug.

The film stars Ralph Fiennes as head concierge Gustave H., who tries to keep everything afloat at the famed Grand Budapest Hotel, a 1930s ski resort, where he becomes a mentor and friend to Zero (Tony Revolori), a junior lobby boy. Gustave sees himself as a lothario, who provides first-class service to his guests, especially the sexual needs of many of the elderly women who stay there. When Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), one of his many lovers, dies under mysterious circumstances, he's immedidately the prime suspect.

In typical Anderson fashion, the story takes many twists and turns, where many of the supporting players, including Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Adrian Brody, Edward Norton, and Bill Murray, overwhelm the main plot of the film, with pure eccentricity and color, that you forget what the film is supposed to be about. Sometimes, those sidesteps tend to put off many viewers, but nevertheless, you always know that Anderson is complete control of his cinematic world. In this case, for my opinion, Anderson's oeuvre is much needed, as a refreshing step away from Hollywood's usual overbaked, cookie-cutter entertainment.

As with Criterion's previous releases and typically outstanding care of Anderson's work, the new edition of Grand Budapest, is definitely no exception, containing worthwhile supplements such as a new commentary with Anderson, Goldblum, filmmaker Roman Coppola, and critic Kent Jones; a new making-of documentary; new interviews with the cast and crew; video essays from 2015 and 2020 by critic Matt Zoller Seitz and film scholar David Bordwell; behind-the-scenes, special effects, and test footage; and a trailer. It also includes an essay from 2014 by critic Richard Brody, collectible poster, and on the Blu-ray only, excerpts from an additional piece by Brody, an 1880 essay on European hotel portiers by Mark Twain, and other memorabilia. This is obviously another big recommendation from me, especially if you love Anderson and his unique cinema.

Other notable releases:

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Criterion): Written and directed by Miranda July, this film stars July as a struggling artist who uses her talents to conjure up dreams and objects of desire. John Hawkes is one of those desires, as he plays a newly single father of two boys who wants amazing things, but panics when he encounters her. But in this world, they both realize that the mundane and typical can sometimes bring about magical events and newfound love.

Billy Liar: The great Tom Courtenay stars as a young, freewheeling clerk in Northern England, who lives in his own fantasy world beyond his drab surroundings and makes bad decisions that eventually alienate his friends and family. The beautiful Julie Christie co-stars as the woman who could help him make his dreams come true. Read my review.

Sweet Bird of Youth: Film icon Paul Newman stars in this adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play about Chance Wayne, a drifter who returns to his hometown after trying to make it big as an actor. Tagging along is faded film star Alexandra Del Lago (the legendary Geraldine Page). While trying to help her get a screen test, he reconnects with his former girlfriend (Shirley Knight), the daughter of the local politican, who forced him to leave town years ago.

The Europeans: The great Lee Remick stars as the Countess Eugenia in this adaptation of the Henry James' novel as an American expatriate, who along with her brother Robert, have been raised mostly in Europe. They have successfully lived well and have returned to see their relatives to take advantage of their wealth by trying to contract a marriage with one of their cousins. Eventually, things don't always come to past as Eugenia ends up not fairing as well Robert does.

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