November 01, 2014

"The Grand Budapest Hotel": Inspired By Stefan Zweig - Now A Golden Globe Winner, A BAFTA And Oscar Winner


I must admit I loved this movie! It was quirky, witty, unusual and funny. 

It was also a case of 'spot the star'.

People I have spoken to either loved it or hated it. It's a matter of taste!
I could easily watch it again and again. Twice so far.

A few years ago the director Wes Anderson was browsing the shelves of a bookshop in his adopted home of Paris when he made a chance discovery. He took down a copy of Beware of Pity, a 1939 novel by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, recently re-released in English after years out of print. “I think I read the first page in the store and thought, ‘OK, this is a new favourite writer of mine,’” Anderson told Variety.

When the credits roll at the end of Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, the first one goes to Stefan Zweig, whose writings inspired it. “It’s basically plagiarism,” the director joked at a press conference before the film’s premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. But it is actually a fantasia on themes from Zweig’s life and works, a homage to the writer and his refined vision of Europe before World War II.

It’s not surprising that Wes Anderson took so long to find Zweig, who until recently was almost forgotten in the English-speaking world. At the Strand Book Store in New York City (motto: “18 miles of books!”), there are currently just eight titles in stock. But in Dussmann, Berlin’s vast ‘cultural department store’, Zweig’s many works have a shelf all to themselves. In France, they have never been out of print. Until Pushkin Press and the New York Review of Books began to re-issue new editions in recent years, Zweig was known outside continental Europe by just a small group of literary aficionados and students in university German departments.

Zweig’s fall from fame is remarkable given he was regularly billed as ‘the world’s most translated author’ throughout the 1920s and ‘30s. His pacy novellas and vivid psychological biographies were international best-sellers, devoured by fans from London to Buenos Aires. 

His speaking engagements drew huge audiences and he could sell out New York’s Carnegie Hall. He spoke regularly on the radio and was interviewed by the BBC in an early experiment with television in the ‘30s. An avowed cosmopolitan, Zweig travelled extensively and knew all the major intellectual and artistic figures of the time, corresponding with Einstein and giving the eulogy at the funeral of Sigmund Freud.

“He was one of the first star authors, and even in an age with no TV and very few pictures in the newspapers, people recognised him wherever he went,” says Zweig’s biographer Oliver Matuschek, who has spent 20 years researching the writer’s life and works. “The sheer volume is unbelievable,” says Matuschek. “In the collected works in German there are 36 volumes, and that doesn’t include the 500 pieces of journalism that were published in newspapers and magazines in his lifetime.”  

Be my guest
In many ways Zweig, the urbane man of letters who collected manuscripts by Goethe and owned Beethoven’s desk, symbolises an idea of European sophistication that vanished with the Nazis’ rise to power. He was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna in 1881 and his privileged background meant he could devote himself to writing without worrying about money. His popularity made him richer still and as his fame grew, he travelled widely to lecture and promote his books, staying in opulent hotels all over Europe. It is little wonder that so many of his stories play out in grand guesthouses.

“The hotel is the best stage you could invent for a writer like Zweig,” says Matuschek. “There are all sorts of people there, from very grand guests to humble members of staff. And of course many of the people who read his books would never have stayed in a five-star hotel. But they would have had their own ideas and used their imagination to create this world.”

In The Post-Office Girl, a lowly postal clerk in Austria after World War I receives an invitation to an Alpine resort, where she is intoxicated by the grand surroundings. She dresses up in fine clothes and affects the manners of the hotel’s guests – but is sent packing in disgrace when her humble background is exposed. Zweig’s 1927 novella 24 Hours in the Life of a Woman also revolves around a scandal in luxury lodgings, and like The Grand Budapest hotel, it is narrated as a story within a story, one of Zweig’s favourite devices.

Wes Anderson has borrowed from both works and from Zweig’s contemporary Thomas Mann, whose rakish title character in The Confessions of Felix Krull rises from the modest station of lift-boy in a grand Parisian establishment by charming and seducing the wealthy guests.

Gone but not forgotten
The Grand Budapest Hotel builds to a rollicking finale, but there is an air of sadness that mirrors the sudden and tragic end to Zweig’s life. Just a week after the fall of Singapore, at the height of World War II, newspapers across the world cleared room to report the news of his death. Many found space on the front page. His last years were lived in exile in Britain, the US and finally Brazil. Zweig read the writing on the wall with the rise of National Socialism and fled his home in Salzburg in 1934 before his beloved Austria was annexed by the German Reich. His books were banned and burned, and his citizenship revoked.

On the evening of 22 February 1942, Zweig and his second wife took a massive dose of barbiturates and lay down next to each other on their bed in Petrópolis near Rio de Janeiro. “The world of my own language sank and was lost to me,” he wrote in his suicide note, “and my spiritual homeland Europe destroyed itself.”

Zweig’s slide into obscurity in the English-speaking world began shortly afterwards. Why did this happen? “His books are very much products of pre-war Europe,” says Adam Freudenheim, publisher and managing director of Pushkin Press. “They probably didn't resonate very much in the 1940s to the ‘60s.” Another reason for his recent obscurity is the reluctance of readers in the US and UK to read literature in translation. Studies in both countries suggest that these books make up only 3-4% of total sales. And the quality of the previous translations – rendered in leaden, heavy-going prose – was also undoubtedly to blame. “It's generally a good idea to have books re-translated every few decades,” says Freudenheim. “It does seem to be the case that languages – at least English – change enough that older translations can sometimes, perhaps often, feel stale.”

Wes Anderson’s new film is a new translation of sorts. He has boiled Zweig’s life and works down to their marrow, and re-imagined them in his unique cinematic language. As artists, the two couldn’t be more different. Zweig’s works are serious, restless and psychological and they have the stiffly formal quality of his times. 

Wes Anderson’s films are witty, cool and ironic, more concerned with surfaces than interiors. But despite its frothy tone and galloping pace, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a kind of monument – it begins, after all, in mock-sombre fashion with a teenage fan’s pilgrimage to the statue of a great author. 

Wes Anderson’s massive enthusiasm for his “new favourite writer” is there in every frame, and will turn a whole new audience on to a wonderful author we almost forgot.

By Matthew Anderson

With many thanks to BBC Culture.

Starring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Léa Seydoux, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and introducing Tony Revolori.


Where was Grand Budapest Hotel filmed?

Check out Ra Moon's post at Atlas of Wonders. Here's an excerpt:

The German cities of Görlitz and Dresden, along with some other spots in Saxony, are the main filming locations where The Grand Budapest Hotel takes place. Also, the film director Wes Anderson, took inspiration from a cocktail between Vienna, Prague and Budapest to create the city of Lutz, in the invented Republic of Zubrowka. The plot occurs in a background with clear references to the history of Central Europe, during the interwar period of the 20th century.

The production team did a magnificent job recreating a fictional universe, that is at the same time familiar to the public. Also the shooting locations are not very difficult to recognize for those who have been there. Many films try to mask or hide the real film locations. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, on many occasions the camera was pointing at the same perspective as postcards do....
Above:The Stadthalle was an old concert hall that was used as the hotel’s restaurant.

Golden Globes: Cumberbatch, Redmayne and Jones among Britons recognised

Birdman, about a former superhero actor - played by Keaton - attempting a Broadway comeback, leads the flock this year with seven nominations. Richard Linklater's Boyhood - a coming of age story that took 12 years to make - and The Imitation Game both have five.

The Theory of Everything, like David Fincher thriller Gone Girl, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma, has four nominations in all, to the delight of Eric Fellner, one of its producers.

"We're thrilled," said Fellner, co-chairman of Working Title Films, of Redmayne and Jones' nominations. "The emotional power of the film comes from the performances of all of the actors.

"We've got some of the greatest actors, technicians and artists in the world based here in the UK," he told BBC News. "Every year there is a number of them recognised - and I think it's only right."

From BBC News

The Grand Budapest Hotel amid BAFTA contenders 

COMIC confection The Grand Budapest Hotel is the surprise front runner for the British Academy Film Awards, while English acting darlings Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch are competing in the best-actor category. 
WES Anderson's Hotel received 11 nominations on Friday, including best picture and best director.

Ralph Fiennes was nominated for best actor as the unflappable concierge of a chaotic European hostelry.
Acting nominees also include Michael Keaton, as a washed-up actor aiming for a comeback in Birdman. The Alejandro Inarritu-directed movie was nominated in 10 categories, as was James Marsh's The Theory of Everything, which stars Redmayne as physicist Stephen Hawking.
Redmayne said his acting nomination was "beyond imagination".
He insisted he felt no rivalry with Cumberbatch, who was nominated for playing World War II code breaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. That film received nine nominations.
"One can try and create a rivalry but it will not happen!" Redmayne said from Los Angeles.
"We both absolutely understand people wanting to pitch us against each other, but we are old, old friends and I think he is the most wonderful actor. He is sensational in The Imitation Game and I love watching him. "
Jake Gyllenhaal is also nominated for his performance as a sleazy journalist in Nightcrawler.
But there was no recognition for Timothy Spall, whose performance as artist JMW Turner in Mr Turner took the best-actor prize at Cannes.
Best-actress contenders are Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, Amy Adams for Big Eyes, Julianne Moore for Still Alice, Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl and Reese Witherspoon for Wild.
Other front runners include Richard Linklater's decade-spanning Boyhood and Damien Chazelle's drumming drama Whiplash. They have five nominations each.
The best-picture nominees are Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.
The separate category of best British picture includes The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything alongside tense Northern Ireland drama '71, alien chiller Under the Skin and animated ursine adventure Paddington.
Winners of the awards, known as BAFTAs, will be decided by 6500 members of the British film academy and announced at London's Royal Opera House on February 8.
The British prizes are seen as an indicator of likely success at Hollywood's Academy Awards, whose nominees are announced next week.
With thanks to The Australian

Complete list of Golden Globe winners here.

2015 Academy Awards: Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel dominate nominations

TWO extravagant comedies, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, have tied for the most Oscar nominations with nine nods each, including best picture. 
They were joined in best-picture nominations last night by Boyhood, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, American Sniper and Selma.

The Imitation Game trailed close behind with eight nominations. 

Clint Eastwood’s Navy SEAL drama American Sniper did especially well, landing six nods including best actor for Bradley Cooper. 

Also with six nominations was Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age epic Boyhood, which remains the best-picture favourite. On Sunday, it won best drama at the Golden Globes.

But Wes Anderson’s old Europe caper The Grand Budapest Hotel, which also won best comedy or musical at the Globes, has emerged as the most unexpected awards heavyweight. With $US59.1 million at the North American box office (opening all the way back in March), it’s also the most money-making best-picture entry. That, however, is likely to change soon after American Sniper expands across the US this weekend.

The eight best-picture nominees left out two wild cards that might have added a dose of darkness to the category: the creepy Jake Gyllenhaal thriller Nightcrawler and the tragic wrestling drama Foxcatcher. In the three previous years since the category was expanded (anywhere between five and 10 film may be nominated), there were nine movies contending for best picture.

The nominees for best actor are: Cooper, Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything). David Oweloyo, who stars as Martin Luther King Jr in Selma, was left out.

Marion Cotillard for the French-language Two Days, One Night was the surprise nominee for best actress. She was joined by Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) and Reese Witherspoon (Wild).

This year’s modestly sized but much-beloved favourites — Boyhood, Birdman — have been largely locked in place throughout much of the ever-expanding industrial complex of Hollywood’s lengthy awards season, where statuette-hunting campaigns span months and are feverishly chewed over by Oscar prognosticators. As studios have focused more and more on easily marketed blockbusters, Oscar season increasingly exists apart from the regular business of the movies, in its own highfalutin, red-carpeted realm.

Ratings are on the rise. Last year’s Oscars, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, drew 43 million viewers in the US, making it the most-watched entertainment telecast in a decade. Twelve Years a Slave took best picture. This year’s ceremony on February 22 will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.


From The Australian

Benedict Cumberbatch And Eddie Redmayne: The Changing Face Of Hollywood

The Best Movies Of 2014

Some Biopic Actors And Their Real-Life Counterparts

Here is the list of 2015 Oscar winners.   

Oscar Winners 2016: The Full List

The 100 Greatest American Films

10 Historical Movies That Mostly Get It Right

Long-Lost Peter Sellers Films Found In Rubbish Skip

Are These The Top 10 Comedy Actors of All Time?