Yesterday I had the enormous privilege of representing Berlin Loves You at the first day of the Berlinale Film Festival which is taking pace at locations all over the city, but most of the action is centered around the press hub of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and the multiple movie theaters of the Cinemaxx complex.
The first day was all about one thing – the world premiere of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. The morning began with the opening press conference, which introduced the jury who will be deciding which movie takes home the Golden Bear as top prize. There were hushed tones in the crowded conference room as such silver screen luminaries as Christoph Waltz and Greta Gerwig, joined others including acclaimed screenwriter and head judge James Shamus on the panel to discuss this years competition. Once that was over the rush was on to run next door to get a seat at the press screening of The Grand Hotel Budapest, and boy was it worth the run! If you have ever enjoyed a Wes Anderson movie such as “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “The Life Aquatic”, “Rushmore”, or even “Fantastic Mr. Fox” you are gonna love this one. In this writer’s opinion it is far superior to Anderson’s previous hit, “Moonrise Kingdom. The story centers around the titular Grand Budapest Hotel, harking back to the pre-WWII era when Europe’s elite and landed aristocracy would spend weeks at a time being pampered in lavish ‘Grand Hotels’ all over the continent (although perhaps not much has changed today).
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, in fact I won’t give away any, but it suffices to say that the stellar cast of actors give incredibly good performances. Two-time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes is peerless in the lead role as the hotel concierge – Mr. Gustave, while his on-screen lobby-boy and accomplice named Zero, relative newcomer Tony Revolori, is, well, a revelation! As with any Wes Anderson film, the supporting cast is equally amazing with scene-stealing appearances from the likes of Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel and Jude Law, to name probably only half of them. A special shout must go to young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan who plays Zero’s determined and heroic love interest, the baker’s assistant, Agatha. At the post-screening press conference, after raising my hand for what seemed like an hour, I managed to get selected for a question to this panel, and after overcoming my initial stage-fright, I was able to mumble my way through asking Ralph Fiennes how he would describe the smell of the iconic perfume his character used in the film – L’Air de Panache. I even kept enough in the tank to hold onto the mic and ask Ms. Ronan if she felt appearing in a movie with so many relatively unkown actors could damage her career. Yes it was my attempt at a joke, and I kind of had to repeat the question, but in the end and to my great relief, I think most people got it and a small ripple of laughter broke out in the room, I think I even made Bill Murray smile.
And so at the end of the conference Ms. Ronan was kind enough to come over and have a quick chat with me about our Irish roots, and pose with our very own BLY t-shirts. I must apologize for the poor quality of the above photo. The star-struck adrenaline causing me to get both my fingers in the shot and Saorise’s face slightly blurred, not to mention the horrible selfies I took of us which will never see the light of day! She also promised to join me for a party in About Blank on Saturday, I’m sure she says yes to every fan who asks her to join in the fun, but you never know!
You can check out a trailer for The Hotel Grand Budapest right here