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The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • Abkco / 2014 / 60m

Wes Anderson’s latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, has polarised opinion the way his films usually do; this time, the quirky farce follows the adventures of a concierge and lobby boy at an opulent old European hotel.  This is the third Anderson film to be scored by Alexandre Desplat and the composer has established something of a signature sound for the director – lots of light, quirky charm, lots of plucked and struck instruments.  The fictional middle or eastern-European country in which the film is set gets a wonderful accompaniment drawn from the music of several countries in that region – zither, cimbalom and balalaika amongst the most recognisable.  Desplat’s score consists mostly of short cues which draw upon a fairly small thematic pool and is almost constantly playful.  Much like the film, I can imagine that it will irritate as many people as it delights; I am firmly in the “delighted” category.

The brilliant main theme (introduced in “Mr Moustafa”) is so fluid and so full of comic charm, it breezes over the listener like a welcome light wisp on a warm summer’s day.  Occasionally Desplat indulges in more overt comedy or melodrama (the dramatic organ dirge of “Last Will and Testament” is unexpectedly delightful, the dynamic rhythm of “Daylight Express to Lutz” reminds me of some of Ennio Morricone’s playful comedy music – think Il Gatto in particular).  It flows so beautifully – the brief length of most of the cues could be a recipe for disaster (at least in terms of soundtrack album experience) in the hands of a less skilled composer, but Desplat keeps things moving so fluidly, you never really even notice; you also don’t notice the panoply of source music as sticking out (Russian dances, an extract from Vivaldi’s concerto for lute and plucked strings, even a yodel) – it blends so seamlessly with the composer’s original score, this is one of those rare score-and-source albums where nobody should programme out the source.  While the music may feel like a relatively light meal compared with Desplat’s more usual banquets, it’s so perfectly judged it’s actually very fulfilling and if you’re one of the people it catches, you’ll find yourself frequently returning for more.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Debbie (Reply) on Wednesday 2 April, 2014 at 23:54

    The whole soundtrack is like cotton candy…so delightful

  2. Ad de Nijs (Reply) on Friday 4 April, 2014 at 15:38

    I surveyed this soundtrack on Spotify and it will probably fit the movie which is rich in cotton-candy style as Debbie put it.
    It’s not my favorite Desplat approach though.
    Maybe if we get it at Streamingsoundtracks I still will request sometimes some nicer tracks but it won’t become part of my collection (for now).
    The middle part where the score combines with the Vivaldi piece is most appealing to me.

  3. Luc Van der Eeken (Reply) on Friday 4 April, 2014 at 19:20

    This score has grown on me the last couple of weeks and now I think it’s a beauty. I had trouble getting through the entire score at the beginning but once you discover all its little secrets, it always puts a smile on your face. With this one, The Monuments Men and Godzilla it shows again what a diverse and masterful composer Desplat is.

  4. Debbie (Reply) on Wednesday 23 April, 2014 at 21:25

    Movie and soundtrack are perfect together. I cannot imagine another soundtrack for this film. As smart and tight as the film. Do stay as the credits are rolling. There is a little cartoon dancer who get quite frenetic at the end as the music builds…worth the price of admission alone.

  5. Nasir (Reply) on Tuesday 24 June, 2014 at 09:00

    The main theme is a beauty. Moustafa’s theme. In the final moments of the film, this is the theme that lends the immense poignancy the film somehow manages to achieve in the end.

    This is indeed one of Desplat’s best themes in quite a while.

  6. Shlomo Porat (Reply) on Wednesday 25 February, 2015 at 17:39

    I saw the movie (which I loved) again recently and ever since cant stop listening to this score, which I actually thought had its moments but wasn’t crazy about the melodies the first time.

    It is a masterpiece, the most enjoyable soundtrack front-to-back in years…I can’t think of the last score I loved so entirely, loving every second of it, and including the needle-drops. Maybe ‘Moonshine Kingdom’…this is one of the great scores of one of the most brilliant director-composer teams in history.

    And it actually won the Oscar! I’m not sure my favorite score of the year won an Oscar since John Williamd was still winning these things..

  7. Aidabaida (Reply) on Sunday 31 July, 2016 at 04:52

    One of those scores that so perfectly fit the movie it’s difficult to imagine the film without it. A lost art, such scores are becoming.