The Grand Budapest Hotel— based on the works of Stefan Zweig, with whom I familiar as the librettist for Richard Strauss’s operas Die schweigsame Frau (based on Jonson’s Epicoene and Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, in which the heroine decidedly doesn’t schweigt) and Daphne (in which the soprano turns into a tree)—is the best film I have seen this year. It is funny and clever, nimbly dancing across genres, from crime story and caper to great escape (from prison), 007 (echoes of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and romance; and it is visually rich: the Art Nouveau architecture of the hotel, the oak panelling of the schloss. Its air of Central European faded elegance and cosmopolitanism recalls Chesterton and the short stories of Agatha Christie (Mr. Quin and The Labours of Hercules).
So I thought I would watch some of Wes Anderson’s earlier movies. Rushmore (1998) reminded me of Donnie Darko (2001); it deals with themes of adolescent alienation and awkwardness (ugh), and is about an unprepossessing adolescent creep whose calf love nearly ruins his and several other people’s lives.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007) has a situation (three brothers on a train in India), but no story. At least it’s visually attractive: lots of bright colors (red, blue, yellow). Can be recommended to those who like films about ‘spiritual journeys’. For the rest of us, there’s Octopussy and the Temple of Doom.