"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is the top-grossing movie of Wes Anderson's career; it's received nine Oscar nominations and looks poised to win at least one at the awards on Sunday.
The film represents the apex of everything Anderson has worked towards since his feature debut of "Bottle Rocket," the perfection of his particular form of building expansive emotional worlds within meticulously designed cinematic landscapes.
Still, why has this film -- revolving around the final days of a classic European hotel and the concierge (Ralph Fiennes) who defined it -- struck a chord beyond, say, "The Royal Tenenbaums" or "Moonrise Kingdom"?
"I'm not sure what it is," says Matt Zoller Seitz, author of "The Wes Anderson Collection" and now the follow-up, "The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel." "I think the fact that he's thinking about history and the individual's place within it, and also the fact that it's framed as not one but two reminisces by old people looking back on their youth. Those two things in combination might have somehow expanded his reach as a storyteller, but I don't really know. It's all kind of a mystery."
The book dissects Anderson's layered continental European fairy tale in tremendous detail, with chapters devoted to every aspect of the film, from the acting to the cinematography and the score. It's intricately structured and it has been designed by Martin Venezky with extraordinary detail, including shifts in the ways pages are framed and elaborate thematic backgrounds.
Seitz, TV critic for Vulture and editor-in-chief of RogerEbert .com, incorporates essays from iconic film theorist David Bordwell and others to further a bid to expand the book from a dissection of one movie into an introduction to and demystification of the cinematic process at large.
In the end, "Grand Budapest Hotel" is an ideal film for this expanded treatment because, Seitz says, it is in a sense Anderson's "Goodfellas."
"Wes is turning 46 this year. He is, I believe, a little bit younger than Martin Scorsese was when 'Goodfellas' came out. I mention that not just because Scorsese was one of Wes' mentors but because Scorsese, like Wes Anderson, was a director who for the first 15 years of his career was somebody that critics and the general public couldn't make up their mind about. They knew he was talented but they hadn't decided if he was significant.
"'Goodfellas' was the movie that did that for Scorsese," Seitz adds. "And I think 'Grand Budapest Hotel' has that reaction. People who have never seen a Scorsese film saw 'Goodfellas' and said, 'Wow, that was great. What else has he done?' And there are a lot of people who have done that because of 'Grand Budapest Hotel.'"
If you Go: Matt Zoller Seitz will be signing copies of "The Wes Anderson Collection": The Grand Budapest Hotel" on Tuesday at Strand and Wednesday at BookCourt, 7 p.m., and at a screening of the film Thursday at Nitehawk Cinema