Movie, directed by Wes Anderson, 2014.
Back in the late Baroque, when no well-bred traveling aristocrat past his student days stayed anywhere but the as the guest of someone else equally well-off, a hotel was, in many ways, a hard sell: one didn't want to mingle with the hoi polloi, they didn't understand what constituted a proper breakfast, the rooms were too hot or too cold, had fireplaces (when clearly, stoves were the way of civilization) , or stoves (when everyone knew that stoves dried out the air), and what was with the beds? Surely anyone would know that a good, well-made bed should have a set of bedstairs! It was then and there that someone invented the Grand Hotel.
What they offered to their clients was nothing less than a palace-away-from-a-palace, with whole suites of rooms available for one’s personal entourage, with a staff, amenities, and a team of cooks far beyond even the most extravagant households, and of course, a concierge, highest of all staff, whose job it was to Make It Happen.
Do you desire prime last-minute tickets to the Opera? Can you get a table at “that restaurant” on “that night”? Wish that the furniture be specially arranged, or space made for one’s own pieces? Gift-wrap a package, and have it placed under the covers of “his" side of the bed? (Yes. I did do that.) He would know. Of course, with repeat visitors, the requests might be…somewhat exacting. Or impossible. Or downright illegal. Or….Of course. Yes. At once, if they hadn't anticipated you asking...
Lowliest of all public staff, would be the Lobby Boy. Wearing a fez that was also worn by organ-grinder’s monkeys, his job was to fetch and carry luggage, to greet guests, and to be the brunt of most abuse, from both the guest’s traveling staff, to the guests themselves. Yet, in a sense, the Lobby Boy was the heart and soul of the hotel: the smile that greeted the end of the journey, the extended hand that meant : whatever your problem, it’s OK, we’ll deal with it now. Meanwhile, keep your lip zipped and your anal sphincter tight. Unless, you might want to, um, you know...
In this movie, a writer, suffering from a vague malaise, decides to spend a few weeks in a fading off-season Grand, located somewhere behind the Iron Curtain. It’s now long since torn down, he recounts, and was on Government life support when he was a visitor, but there was a romantic quality about its decline, like an old wealthy woman recounting her youth. The other guests hardly ever spoke to each other. And finally The Owner showed up. He had been enormously wealthy, and had but one small eccentricity: he always slept in a servant’s bedroom, in fact one once used by the Lobby Boy, when they still had one.
Turns out that the Owner once was the Lobby Boy, and the Concierge, his trainer, had had a long-standing affair with a long-standing guest.
“But she was what…84 when she died?”
“I’ve had older.”
"When young, you have filet. Older, you learn cheaper cuts have more flavor."(In ways, this is a really untranslatable cross-cultural reference, in that while dry-cooked steak and roasts are the star of American/English/French cuisine, in German/Austrian/Slavic/Hungarian it's stewed or boiled beef (of cuts that are hardly to be called 'lesser' in context) that is the purview of the true gourmet: being chewable half raw is not as prized as much as flavor, texture, unami...) Perhaps the equivalent idea is grill vs. BBQ....
Anyway Madame T. decided to give him a Dutch genre painting of some notoriety in her will, and the relatives objected, enough to frame him with her wrongful death.
It’s somewhat of a grown -up fairy tale, based on the works of Stefan Zweig, with naughty bisexual hijinks (although more talked-about than actually on-camera), horny old people, young love, priceless art, mouthwatering pastries, the Definitely-Nothing-Like-the-NAZI's ZZ Secret Police, romantic poetry, secret cabals, jailbreaks, refugees, and the importance of keeping one’s cool and being pleasant and well-mannered, no matter what. If you like 60’s big-budget campy comedy, the kind of film that has a cast of dozens in eye-popping locations doing wacky and improbable things for impossible reasons, you’ll like this one. Others might find it lightweight and a bit offensive. You choose.