Friday, February 13, 2015

Grand Budapest Hotel Double Dip: Odd Thoughts

So, when I was watching Grand Budapest Hotel, I started to wonder if Wes Anderson's hyper-meta movie about storytelling had some even more meta elements going on. Specifically, I was wondering if the magnificent group of actors and actresses here - and, really, GBH has so many ringers that I almost want to grade it down - was being used in ways that recalled their prior roles. An additional hypothesis was that, in some cases, Anderson was calling back to other aspects of his casts' respective resumes.

It's weird enough that several performers, like Lea Seydoux, are in the kind of mid/far-range set ups that barely allow you to see who they are. I actually didn't recognize her. Also, there's one shot where Fiennes is standing over Goldbum, which is impossible because Goldblum is 6'4"!

But I noticed that Harvey Keitel's part has the same tattooed prison thug look

no, seriously, Harvey Keitel,

that adorned another of his work mates - Ed Norton in American History X. Keep in mind that, throughout this story, Keitel plays a criminal planner, like Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction. Meanwhile, Ed Norton plays an Inspector-type who is very similar to that of someone who played a secondary antagonist against him - Paul Giamatti's role in The Illusionist. In Illusionist, Giamatti played a smart detective who's gotten on the wrong side of an investigation involving the under-handed dealings of wealthy people out to harm underclass folk. Here, Norton does much the same, and portrays (like Giamatti) an antagonist who doesn't become "a bad guy."

Even at the film's very beginning, certain prior-role-allusions pop up when Jude Law's part meets F. Murray Abrahams' character. For one thing, Abrahams' voice over - which goes from beginning to end, and recounts a fantastical life story - is very reminiscent of the narration FMA (hahaha) provided throughout the movie Amadeus. It's just that, this time, his character is naïve and blessed by good fortune, quite the opposite of the Salieri that he played before.

Jude Law himself might be subject to this, as well - although it's harder to be sure. In The Talented Mr. Ripley, someone else takes over the story of his life, much like Law's Author in GBH writes about the life story of another person. It's only a slightly shakier connection to point out that he's played John Watson, a man who gains renown through telling the stories of Sherlock Holmes... shakier because Watson writes about events in the first person, mind you.

Hell, it might be more apt to point to eXistenZ, a film where one story is buried within another that is buried within another story still. Or even to Closer, where he's a (failed) author who found success writing about someone else's life.

It gets better, though, when we look at Willem Dafoe's J.G. Jopling, who looks and acts like a goddamn monster. Half of Jopling reminds me of Shadow of the Vampire. In that movie, Dafoe also had bad teeth, a pale countenance, and a sinister vibe.

Then you get a good look at J.G. in Grand Budapest

and realize that his leather outfits and motorcycle use (which I have pix of, but the one below is sooo much better) also might call back to a prior psychopathic part - namely, his role in the uber-80's b-movie Streets of Fire:

Yup, leather overalls - what the unholy f--k.

And this is all before we note that Dafoe has his thumbs cut off in The English Patient... and that he severs some of Jeff Goldblum's fingers in GBH.

OH YEAH, speaking of... Ralph Fiennes' part has similarities to his work in The English Patient, as well. Once again, he plays a notable lover with regal bearing. Only this time, he breaks into curses all the time, even while retaining the principles of good manners and appropriate social behavior. Yet here he's not Count Almasy sleeping with someone who looks like mid-30's Kirsten Scott Thomas, he's a hotel concierge who gets with Tilda Swinton made up to look like an aristocratic, elderly Large Marge from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure:

Like a (fancy) garbage truck
dropped off the Empire State Building

How the mighty have fallen, right? At least Gustave H. does something so generous in the face of cruelty, and so brave in the face of real danger... Such tragic hatred and noble goodness would have been a fitting scene in Minghella's film.

However messed up your life is, you're not such a f--k-up unless you stop trying to do the objectively right thing. Right?

I don't use my sleeves, and I'm a lion in the sack.
And still I cannot help but laugh that this actor who once played a magnificent lover, a passionate go-to-the-ends-of-the-earth for you type, is now... Well, he's a lot older.

He finds himself in trouble more often, trouble for which he has to rely on friends and non-friends and even New acquaintances more often than the Count would have... And he seldom displays stoicism or secretive discretion, instead talking all the time.

More importantly, he's really not in love with Tilda's Madame Celine Villeneuve "Madame D" Desgoffe und Taxis. He actually compares the many, many rich old blondes that he sleeps with to lousy cuts of meat. "You can have your filet mignon, but ground chuck is fine by me," is not what you expect from a man who's second-most notable trait is that he's a lover of women. Whereas most Don Juan types appear to be in love with the people they sleep with, this guy just seems... like a guy who loves banging. What a difference a film makes, huh?

These are just some of the potential hyper-meta oddities I noticed in Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel. I'll admit that I can't be 100% certain about any of this - but they did stand out to me, more and more strongly as the film went on. It's not even a theory, just a hypothesis. But it does make me wonder what other role mash-ups I might have missed... What do you think?

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