April 8, 2015
News & Opinion: The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel by Matt Zoller Seitz
My first introduction to the films of Wes Anderson was through the private school world of Max Fischer in 1998’s Rushmore, played by a precocious Jason Schwartzman. From the bone-dry humor and exquisite calligraphy to the stellar retro soundtrack and the pre-Lost in Translation return of Bill Murray, I was hooked. Wes’s films quickly became an obsession for my younger brother and me. (He now has two sons named Ari and Max, the latter of which I called Uzi for the first three years of his life.) We moved backwards to his feature debut, Bottle Rocket (which introduced the Wilson brothers to the world outside of Austin), and have been completists ever since. Each new release is a cause for a high holy day, complete with reverent watching, compulsive re-watching (to learn all the lines, duh), and immediate soundtrack blasting. It is a true fact that we somehow convinced our entire family to don red knit caps and attend the opening day screening of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou at Milwaukee’s Downer Theatre on Christmas 2004.
Because of my deep, true, and undying love for Wes, I was beside myself when the news of The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel crossed my path. A follow-up to the 2013 encyclopedic coffee table offering, The Wes Anderson Collection, this volume picks up where the earlier stopped at Moonrise Kingdom. For any cinematic fan, the kind of treatment provided by Matt Zoller Seitz is an absolute dream. Pair this book with the sure-to-be released Criterion Blu-ray edition of the film as a gift for you Andersonphile friend, and you will experience never-ending devotion. Guaranteed.
Wes’s films are incredibly layered, and increasingly more so as his career progresses:
The Grand Budapest Hotel is the culmination of Wes Anderson’s career to date, gathering together everything he’s learned and applying it to a tale that contains literary and visual echoes of every other thing he’s done. It’s a twelve-layer wedding cake of a film, yet, as you’re devouring it, you don’t necessarily think about all the work that went into it—only that it’s delicious.
Which is why it is such a treat to have this book’s in-depth treatment. It’s like watching the film in slow-motion (more slo-mo than Anderson’s normal slo-mo) so you can see each and every frame stand alone. The book is packed with interviews (Wes, Ralph Fiennes, and many of the people that make up Anderson’s stable production team) and critical essays (including UW-Madison film historian David Bordwell on the film’s multiple aspect ratios). But what makes this a must-read for film lovers are the on-set photos, which take us deep into the world of Wes with the director himself. It is clear how much of the aesthetic of his films comes from deep within; he indeed looks like a character in one of his films. Seeing him within the world he has painstakingly created is like seeing Wes in his natural habitat. I think I want the one below framed on my wall. My brother said, “He looks like he has wings.” Wings made of European pastries in impeccably-designed boxes. Only in the land of Wes. We can only hope that Seitz becomes an official chronicler of Anderson’s career and produces a new volume for each and every (hopefully never-ending) future release.
About Blyth Meier
Blyth Meier joined us to lead our marketing department in 2015 after doing that work for the Milwaukee Film Festival for the previous five years. While she made good use her filmmaking degree at that job, here she returns to her first love—books. As an undergraduate English major at the University of North Dakota, Blyth’s favorite time of year was the annual Writers Conference, which brought many of her soon-to-be favorite authors to the remote Northern Prairie: Peter Matthiessen, August Wilson, Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Natasha Trethewey, and Terry Tempest Williams. Blyth lives in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, where she gardens, cooks, takes photographs, makes films, and participates in a yearly 24-hour bike race. At 800-CEO-READ, she runs our social media accounts, writes for In the Books, and is the keeper of all our marketing spreadsheets.