Summer 2015

Nested narratives

The Grand Budapest Hotel

By Matt Zoller Seitz
Designed by Martin Venezky
Abrams, $35, £21.99

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Abrams, $35, £21.99) – the book of the film – comes in the quirky format established by its 2013 predecessor, The Wes Anderson Collection. But while the earlier volume covered all Anderson’s previous films, this focuses exclusively on his latest, with dazzling visuals, interviews with cast and crew, sketches, screenplay extracts, essays and digressions.

Alongside a generous helping of full bleed production stills are several elaborate pastiches – stamps, collector cards and convincing faux book spreads.

Author Matt Zoller Seitz and designer Martin Venezky have the obsessiveness needed to interpret a movie so rich in nuance. There are chapters explaining Annie Atkins’ packaging designs for Mendl’s baked goods and Anderson’s collaboration with composer Alexandre Desplat. Extracts from the work of Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) give a taste of the author’s influence on the nested narratives of the film’s literate script.

‘Wes Anderson Takes the 4:3 Challenge’, an essay by film theorist David Bordwell, lists the different aspect ratios used in the film: Anderson’s visual style comes from a commitment to ‘planimetric staging’ – framings that ‘turn adults into toy people, almost like items laid out in a Joseph Cornell box’. Images by illustrator Max Dalton are the icing on this elaborate and enjoyable wedding cake of a book.

Cover and spread from Matt Zoller Seitz’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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John L. Walters, Eye editor, London

First published in Eye no. 90 vol. 23, 2015

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Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. You can see what Eye 90 looks like at Eye before You Buy on Vimeo.

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