Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel

I re-learned a lesson thanks to Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel.

When I saw the first trailer for the film, I was very excited; I posted it on this blog because I loved every single frame. And—oh my God—seeing Ralph Fiennes as a comedian thrilled me (as I have written here). I even watched one of Mr. Anderson's past films, The Fabulous Mr. Fox, and revelled in a state of excited anticipation for Budapest Hotel.

But I did not like it at all. I fell asleep twice while I was in the theatre. For style, I would give it a 9.5, but for writing and content, I'd call it a 2. What I re-learned concerned the risk of excited anticipation.

At some time during my high school teaching career (1970-1972), a student named Bruce Davies reduced me to a puddle of tears telling me about Woody Allen's movie, Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask. I could hardly wait to go, and when I did, I hated it.

Conversely, I have been rendered euphoric by the unanticipated or even the dreaded. My experience with Nebraska, is an excellent example. I was vaguely interested but only viewed it because sa friend gave me a free DVD; even then, as it began, I doubted I would stick with it. But not only did I stick with it, I loved it.

When people tell me about their travels or when I read about or watch travel stories, if the narrator says something akin to being the first ("first world") person to visit the place or one of the very few, my attention drifts away. I cannot understand how the past experience (or non-experience) of others has anything to do our experience, so statements like that strike me as really odd.

But the sentiment speaks to our species' need for or love of discovery and I think "discovery" is a big part of being an art viewer or consumer. We love discovery. So I believe that when we see a movie or a play or hear something like Allegri's Miserere for the first time without anyone pushing us to it,  the experience can feel like a discovery which adds to our thrill.

When A Chorus Line opened on Broadway, it got a 22-minute standing ovation and nothing like that ever happened again during its long and international run because once that night had happened, critics and viewers for every ensuing production, all over the world, went to see a what they knew was a phenomena. Happily, A Chorus Line  was able to sustain its hype. Audiences were never disappointed, despite their knowledge, because it was such an intimate masterpiece in so unique a form.

However, discovered or recommended, Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel is a beautiful bore. If only his story-telling could match his eye for design.

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