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The Berlin Film Festival is generally seen as the least glamorous of the three major European fests: taking place in snowy February, it lands either too late or too early in the calendar to grab the sparkly awards-season hopefuls or the A-list international auteur titles. So landing the world premiere of Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" as their Opening Film on February 6, 2014 is obviously a great get for the Berlinale -- one that may attract more international press than usual.
It's not exactly surprising news, of course. Once the film's release date was set for March 7 in the US (and a week earlier in the UK and other territories), Berlin seemed the obvious place for the premiere -- after all, the film was shot on location in Germany. The director now makes a habit of premiering his films on the European circuit "Moonrise Kingdom" opened Cannes in 2011, "Fantastic Mr. Fox" opened London in 2009 and "The Darjeeling Limited" competed at Venice in 2007.
This won't be Anderson's first trip to the Berlinale. Both "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic" played there in Competition, though not as world premieres. (Both left empty-handed.) The press release doesn't specify whether or not "The Grand Budapest Hotel" will be competing for the Golden Lion.
Last year, Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster" opened Berlin out of competition -- well, it couldn't have been any other way, given that Wong was the jury president that year. That curtain-raiser was also viewed as something of a coup for the festival, even if the martial arts epic was met with a decidedly mixed critical response. Here's hoping Anderson's film lands a bit better. Either way, however, it's a dream opener for any festival, given the sheer volume of star power it'll bring to the red carpet: its ensemble includes Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Lea Seydoux, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, and so on.
Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick states, “We are very delighted that Wes Anderson will open the 64th Berlinale with his new film, 'The Grand Budapest Hotel.' With unmistakeable Wes Anderson charm, this comedy promises to kick things off in a big way.”
Between "The Grandmaster" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel," then, Berlin is stepping up its game in terms of opening films. (Must all its openers from now on begin with "Grand?") The rest of the lineup, generally, only shows its strength with hindsight: recent editions have unearthed such previously unheralded titles as "A Separation" and "Tabu." I'll once more be in attendance next year; roll on February.
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