In late 2013, film critic Matt Zoller Seitz published a wonderfully heavy, 336-page book called The Wes Anderson Collection. It is beautiful, charmingly illustrated by Max Dalton, and featured a lengthy interview with Wes Anderson focused on each of his seven features to that point. Sadly, the book was quickly out-of-date, since in early 2014 Anderson released his eighth, and to date his most successful, feature, The Grand Budapest Hotel. I must say, though, that I am thrilled the book was so quickly out of date because now we have a supplement — a gloriously in-depth, beautifully produced, 254-page supplement: The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
It’s thrilling to hold an object so lovingly put together, so finely crafted, so detailed — like a Wes Anderson movie.
The care is immediately apparent in the overall design. Again, we get the wonderful illustrations by Max Dalton as well as various photographs from the set and stills from the film itself. When I first received it, I spent a good hour just looking through it without reading a word. I took it to a friend who proceeded to do the same thing — until I jealously snatched it back.
But beyond the overall design, the written content is also carefully considered and filled with insights I was thrilled to explore. For example, I was struck immediately by the opening words of Matt Zoller Seitz’s own critical essay; he expressed something I’ve felt for a long time but never been able to completely articulate — “All of Wes Anderson’s films are comedies, and none are.” — and he then expands from there.
As in The Wes Anderson Collection, this supplement contains a lengthy, multi-part interview between Seitz and Anderson. Seitz also has lengthy bits with Ralph Fiennes, the great star of the show; Milena Canner, the costume designer; Alexandre Desplat, the composer; Adam Stockhausen, the production designer; and Robert Yeoman, the cinematographer. Each is at the top of their game in Grand Budapest, and it is not surprising how well they can articulate their work in the film.
The book also contains a variety of critical essays, playfully from members of the “Society of the Crossed Pens,” that complement the various interviews. Lord Christopher Laverty, whose site “Clothes on Film” has been on my blogroll (and my wife’s) for years, gives a nice run-down on some of the clothing used in the film and analyzes why such sartorial choices were made. Olivia Collette talks about the music, examining Desplat’s choices — such as using a cimbalom, a home-made instrument — as they evoke the “place, its people, and their story.” Steven Boone writes about the production design. David Bordwell has an exceptional essay on aspect ratios (Bordwell’s essays are always exceptional). And, wonderfully to me, Ali Arikan writes about Stefan Zweig.
As is fitting, Stefan Zweig is prominent in this book. Indeed, the first question in the first interview delves into Zweig. There are photographs of Zweig, many of the essays touch on Zweig, and the book also contains various excerpts from Zweig’s work, hopefully shedding more light on Zweig, much to the chagrin of Michael Hofmann.
It’s a wonderful package. Seitz says, “The end goal was to make a book that has a sense of architecture — of floors and rooms — not unlike that of the remarkable movie that inspired it.” He succeeded. I love Wes Anderson’s movies. There’s a fantastic range in each, and I love spending time in his worlds. This book is a delightful supplement to the film and helped me reconsider and re-enjoy it.
Anne Washburn provides an exceptional introduction, and I’ll just end with a passage from that, which ushered me into the wonders of this book:
Reality, in a Wes Anderson film, is a vulgarity, a cruelty, and a necessity — for although his films are populated with people trying as best they can to create a superior cubbyhole of an illusion to live in, and for all that he adores and glorifies this effort, stubbornly, still, he always allows his beautiful worlds to be shattered. Like kids on the beach after a wave has sluiced through their sandcastles, Anderson’s protagonists are left working up the will to rebuild again.