BERLIN KICKS OFF: Wes Anderson’s latest confection, the whimsical and intricate “The Grand Budapest Hotel” opened the 64th annual Berlin International Film Festival, or Berlinale, on Thursday.

Ralph Fiennes leads the cast with young newcomer Tony Revolori, which also features a host of small, but perfectly formed turns from a long list of talents, including Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, and Edward Norton, all of whom were on hand for the film’s premiere and press conference. 

The story of this grand hotel in the mythical Eastern European country the Republic of Zubrowka, plays out through the misadventures of Fiennes’ concierge Monsieur Gustave, a part written for the actor by Anderson. The heavily perfumed and carefully attired schemer’s dedication to the utmost echelons of service includes romancing elderly female guests such as dowager Madame D, Tilda Swinton hidden under ornate gowns, and aged by prosthetics made by the man responsible for turning Meryl Streep into Margaret Thatcher. 

“Madame D is what I look like when I don’t put on all this makeup,”  said  Swinton about her much altered appearance on screen. 


Anderson said the film is loosely inspired on the work of Viennese writer Stefan Zweig, who died in 1942.  Well-loved throughout Europe, Zweig is little known in the US, though his connection with film dates back to the 1920’s, as well as the 1948 Max Ophuls film  “Letter from an Unknown Woman,” with Joan Fontaine. 

“I think people in Europe are surprised that we don’t know this writer,” explained Anderson, who said he borrowed atmosphere and devices from Zweig to make his own version of one of the Austrian’s stories. 


Now heavily bearded in contrast to the fastidious dandy he plays in this film, Fiennes demurred when asked for the name of the real scent that stood in for his character’s signature potent “Eau de Panache,”  saying he’d be accused of product placement.  Still he was pleased to describe it, saying,  “It has a Russian quality to it, a bit of orthodox some spicy thing, something collected from the erogenous zones of rare animals. Together, it’s irresistible.”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” opens in the US and UK on March 7.

The film also has taken on a supporting role at Prada’s Kurfürstendamm flagship for the run of the Berlinale, which ends on February 16.

Special window and in-store displays feature the custom-made suitcases and trunks that Prada created for Madame D. and M. Gustave. Using the brand’s own Twenties and Thirties vintage models as inspiration, Madame D’s wooden frame luggage is covered in soft oak and natural-toned  vaccheta leather, lined in peachy pink cotton sateen, and customized with the owner’s initials, Mdm. C.V.D. u.T (Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis) hand-painted on the leather in authentic 1920’s style.

The baggage of M. Gustave, the hotel’s legendary concierge, is of black vaccheta leather lined in black canneté fabric, and black leather was also the choice, though in nappa, for a Prada coat designed for William Defoe’s menacing character, J.C. Jopling.

Prada noted this is the latest in a series of collaborations with Wes Anderson, including the recent short film Castello Cavalcanti.

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