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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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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog A hero isn’t someone born with unconquerable strength and selflessness. Heroes are not formed in a cataclysmic instant. Heroism is developed over time, one decision after another, moment by moment, formed by a deliberate, chosen, and habitual response to life.

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