Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Darjeeling Limited is just the (long) epitaph to Hotel Chevalier

I'm sure I will grow to love Grand Budapest Hotel after repeated viewings but as mentioned in previous post I thought it was underwelming at first viewing. It has one or two set pieces that may well be up with the best things Anderson's ever done, one murder scene in particular could have come straight from Hitchcock, but even after some crystalline G&Ts at Barbican's Gin Joint, Grand Budapest Hotel seemed as lightweight and sugary as Medl's cakes.

(I notice now looking at the wiki that the hotel itself looks a lot like the pink masterpieces created by Mendl in the movie, doubtless this will a lot more significant when I watch it minus the gin).

I thought I noticed a note of dissapointment with others in the cinema - if you are suffering a similar come-down can I suggest you revisit another unloved Wes Anderson movie that improves significantly on repeated viewings. A few days previously I rewatched The Darjeeling Limited and The Royal Tenebaums. I had not planned to watch RT yet again (6th time?) but so enjoyed Darjeeling Limited and it's accompanying short film Hotel Chevalier so much I couldn't stop myself.

 I was aided by a bottle of the new Apothik wine that is very delicious and which I am prepared to blog at length given sufficient encouragement - hint hint.
Like Grand Budapest Hotel, first time I saw Darjeeling Limited I was pretty disappointed but it has improved hugely over time. It helps to be aware of it's minuses beforehand. What irritates most is that Darjeeling Limited is it so close to being a direct sequel to Royal Tenebaums and yet isn't. Similar characters, obviously Anderson's own acting troupe and similar themes leave you feeling that at any moment Darjeeling Limited will be revealed as the imediate aftermath of Royal's funeral at the end of RT, which irritatingly must have taken place at a similar time and location (New York) to the funeral of the Wittmans father in DL. Superficially DL is a road (or rail) trip, but it is this is slowly revealed to be another twisted family saga about the loss of a father figure, together a mssed up funeral told in flashback.

It is rarely funny but vintage Wes Anderson. The device of having a separate short film, Hotel Chevalier, played before Darjeeling Limited is a strange one and perhaps seemed a great idea during development (to make use of Nat Portman?) but in retrospect that is a scene from the main movie that should have been integrated during release. It is quaint to have it as a separate piece but I'm sure makes issues for schedulers and looks like stunt of arthouse pretension. According to the wiki Hotel Chevalier was concived as a totally separate story and was only linked to Darjeeling Limited afterwards. We are to regard them as two separate stories linked by a character. Fox Searchlight apparently did not even know about the existance of Hotel Chevalier during production of Darjeeling Limited and make no money from it. Hotel Chevalier does come with a mood and sexual emotional charge missing from Darjeeling Limited, which consequently seems like an anti climax.

 That is perhaps the best way to enjoy it, to see the ten minutes of Hotel Chevalier as the main feature and the 91 minutes of the Darjeeling Limited as a long epitaph which explains Jack Wittman's isolation and need for cathartic release and subsequent spiritual engagement. And Indian cough medicine. Darjeeling Limited is rarely funny but vintage Wes Anderson charming, with some of the slo-mo musical highlights seen in the early films and so missing from Grand Budapest Hotel.

Final thought - Is Wes Anderson dong with Darjeeling Limited's soundtrack and iconography for Indian cinema what Quentin Tarantino criticised for doing with Hong Kong cinema?

I think my long delayed trip to Paris be based at Hôtel Raphaël in Paris, the setting for Hotel Chevalier. Full post will follow. There are a lot of reasons I like Hotel Chevalier - here is a less obvious one. Why is Nat Portman's hair so short? She's just come straight from playing Evie V for Vendetta.

Thanks - internet - for the glorious Wes Anderson fan art

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