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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Grand Budapest Hotel

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Ralph Fiennes stars in a scene from the movie "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Fox Searchlight) is writer-director Wes Anderson's triumph of smug artifice over substance and storytelling.

As a collection of deadpan segments, it's likely to please Anderson's fans. However, this saga of a European concierge who dreams of lost grandeur and romances his hotel's aging female clientele, recounted like a fable, is without a moral or even a clear ending. So non-devotees should consider themselves warned.

In the fictional East European country of Zubrowka in the 1930s, Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is said concierge; lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) is his protege. Gustave teaches Zero all the fine points of elegant catering to guests, while spending the rest of his time wooing rich ladies.

Gustave barks orders such as, "Run to the cathedral of Santa Maria Christiana in Brucknerplatz. Buy one of the plain, half-length candles and take back four kublecks in change. Light it in the sacristy, say a brief rosary, then go to Mendl's and get me a Courtesan au chocolat. If there's any money left, give it to the crippled shoeshine boy."

That's kind of cute, but the moment doesn't lead anywhere beyond the snappy patter. Instead the proceedings devolve into a dark comedy.

One of Gustave's elderly ladies, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) dies under mysterious circumstances and bequeaths him a valuable painting, "Boy With Apple." Gustave spends the rest of the film trying to retrieve the painting from her outraged relatives, being framed for murder, escaping prison and attempting to withstand the growing Fascist storm with his charm.

A summoning of the Society of the Crossed Keys, a secret group of super-efficient hotel managers, is an excuse for a host of cameos including Bill Murray, Fisher Stevens and Bob Balaban.

Since the story is related in 1968 by an older Zero, now called Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), it's not clear in whose imagination the story is taking place. And Anderson evidently isn't interested in explaining this either.

The film contains implied, and benignly treated, nonmarital and premarital sexual encounters, fleeting upper female nudity and a smattering of rough and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Hilary of Arles: It’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. In some ways, that was true for today’s saint. 
<p>Born in France in the early fifth century, Hilary came from an aristocratic family. In the course of his education he encountered his relative, Honoratus, who encouraged the young man to join him in the monastic life. Hilary did so. He continued to follow in the footsteps of Honoratus as bishop. Hilary was only 29 when he was chosen bishop of Arles. </p><p>The new, youthful bishop undertook the role with confidence. He did manual labor to earn money for the poor. He sold sacred vessels to ransom captives. He became a magnificent orator. He traveled everywhere on foot, always wearing simple clothing. </p><p>That was the bright side. Hilary encountered difficulty in his relationships with other bishops over whom he had some jurisdiction. He unilaterally deposed one bishop. He selected another bishop to replace one who was very ill–but, to complicate matters, did not die! Pope St. Leo the Great kept Hilary a bishop but stripped him of some of his powers. </p><p>Hilary died at 49. He was a man of talent and piety who, in due time, had learned how to be a bishop.</p> American Catholic Blog True freedom lies in the ability to align one’s actions freely with the truth, so as to achieve authentic human happiness both now and in the life to come. Jesus promised, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32).

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