Daily | Wes Anderson and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Plus: Matt Zoller Seitz’s WES ANDERSON COLLECTION, an art show, and remembering Kumar Pallana. Updated through 11/5.
The poster appeared on Monday, taking Wes Anderson’s penchant for doll houses to a magnificently detailed extreme. The proud buck atop the mountain jutting up behind the multi-storied pink hotel may border on kitsch, but the palette is the most sophisticated balance and placement of color on a movie poster since, well, the one for Moonrise Kingdom. Yesterday, we learned that Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel will open on March 7, 2014. And today, we have a trailer.
Ralph Fiennes plays a “hotel concierge working at a legendary hotel” who “embarks on a friendship with one of its younger employees who soon grows to become his protege in 1920s Europe.” So reads the widely disseminated tagline. The cast is typically huge and Wesandersonian: F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, and Owen Wilson.
Meantime, here’s Chuck Bowen at the House Next Door: “Reading and flipping through The Wes Anderson Collection, which is one of the most purely beautiful films books to be released in recent memory, one is immediately struck by the rightness of the subject/author pairing of director Wes Anderson with critic and House Next Door founder Matt Zoller Seitz. Both have misleadingly delicate sensibilities as artists, as they both produce work that’s characterized by a guiding benevolence that’s bracing, but dangerously prone to distracting the inattentive eye away from the underlying toughness of their respective worldviews. In Anderson’s films, as well as Seitz’s writing, human life is a great bruising, relentless, terrifying entity, and all the more precious for it.”
Criticwire‘s Sam Adams agrees that it’s “a phenomenal work of criticism. Matt Zoller Seitz’s essays incisively tease out the themes in Anderson’s individual films, and his lengthy interviews with Anderson—whom Seitz first covered as a novice filmmaker in the Dallas Observer 20 years ago—are both familiar and exacting.”
In 2009, Moving Image Source published a terrific five-part series of video essays by MZS, now New York‘s television critic and editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com. The Substance of Style probed and mapped influences on Anderson’s work and, as Eric Thurm notes at the AV Club, the series is something of a first draft for the new “massive, beautifully rendered volume…. One of the benefits of the book’s size and lack of space constraints is a sense that the answers to these simple questions are given room to unfold. Seitz’s introductory essays for each chapter are compelling arguments for different readings of each film, but Anderson is generally cagey about the meaning of his work. With so much room to discuss the broader themes and subject matter of Anderson’s films, those passages are occasionally frustrating, yet even without definitive commentary confirming some of his grand unified theories of Wes Anderson, Seitz still elicits a hefty amount of insight into his process.”
Lucky for us, MZS is promoting the hell out of this book. He and editor Steven Santos have created new set of video essays based on it and, introducing the first chapter at RogerEbert.com, MZS notes that “The Substance of Style was analytical, but this new series is more emotional. It also feels a bit more like a traditional documentary in places, though there are characteristic digressions into nerdy areas. This opening chapter, for instance, has a detour about the state of American independent film in the early 90s and how directors built their careers, and why Bottle Rocket was a break from that tradition.” There’ll be a total of six videos, a new one rolling out every couple of days through October 25.
“When Anderson and the Wilson brothers (Owen, Luke and Andrew) were living in Dallas in the early 1990s, they used to go to Cosmic Cup (now Cosmic Cafe), a vegetarian restaurant and culture center in the city’s Oak Lawn neighborhood run by the Pallana family,” writes—again—Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com. “Kumar Pallana, who was born in India in 1918, was a yoga and meditation instructor who taught in a room on the building’s top floor. He was also a multitalented performer who worked as a gymnast, juggler and singer in Africa and the United States before settling in Dallas in the 1960s. Pallana appeared on U.S. television programs in the 1950s and ’60s, including The Mickey Mouse Club, The Pinky Lee Show, and Captain Kangaroo. Late in life, he became a movie actor, starting in Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums and branching out into The Terminal, Duplex, Bomb the System, and Romance and Cigarettes.”
Kumar Pallana died last week, aged 94. “He was the school caretaker Mr. Littlejeans in Rushmore (1998), Anderson’s masterpiece,” writes Ryan Gilbey in the Guardian. “And he took his most prominent role as Pagoda, the sidekick-cum-butler to the feckless patriarch played by Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). He turned up again in Anderson’s fifth film, The Darjeeling Limited (2007), set in India. Pallana was more than just a benevolent presence drafted in to boost the eccentricity quota of those pictures. He had his own varied and colorful life and career long before Anderson was born. Nor was Anderson the first to spot his screen potential: he had already appeared in bit parts in the James Stewart western Broken Arrow (1950) and in Elia Kazan’s Viva Zapata! (1952)… ‘Each of us has our own destiny,’ he told the Dallas Morning News in 2004. ‘Mine is to be an actor.’”
For the Believer, Eli Horowitz has “dug out a few old photos he gave me when I interviewed him ten years ago—a true performer, and abs like nothing you’ve ever seen.” More from Margalit Fox (New York Times), Josh Modell (AV Club), and Matt Singer (Dissolve).
Update, 10/24: For Vulture, MZS lists “24 Things I Learned While Writing My Book About Wes Anderson.”
Update, 10/26: “It’s odd to remember that taking Anderson seriously was, until recently, an unduly uphill critical battle,” writes the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody. “Misunderstood as self-enclosed when his work is centrifugal, as artificial when it’s symbolic (in a register that I’ve likened to Hemingway and Hawks), as ironically remote when it’s agonizingly (though subtly) emotional, Anderson is one of the few instantly adjectival directors in the history of film. And Seitz’s book, with its full investigation of Anderson’s art—including, with a touching frankness, his confession to Anderson of his numerous and insightful ‘theories’ (his word) about the films (these interviews are two-sided discussions)—unfolds the densely compressed layers of thought and experience, impulse and intention, that go into the making of Anderson’s films.”
Updates, 11/5: Festival Director Dieter Kosslick’s announced today that he’s “very delighted that Wes Anderson will open the 64th Berlinale with his new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.” So the world premiere will be in Berlin on February 6.
Meantime, Kwenton Bellette talks with MZS for Twitch.
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