Anderson's historical fiction stars Ralph Fiennes as a famous
concierge who woos octogenarian blonde widows at an alpine hotel
in a made-up Central European country in the 1930s.
It amused a press audience but there was no escaping the absence
of Hoffman, whose death at 46 last week in New York City after
apparently injecting heroin has rattled the cinema world.
Hoffman had been meant to attend the prestigious Berlin event to
promote his Sundance festival film "God's Pocket". Jury
president and film producer and screenwriter James Schamus said
Hoffman would still be there in spirit.
"That news was pretty tough on all of us," Schamus told a news
conference with all the jury members present.
"Philip Seymour Hoffman will be here...and I know that a lot of
his friends are going to be joining together to remember him.
It's places like Berlin that provide a place to remember, mourn
and celebrate and I think you can rest assured he will be here."
Anderson's film, with a star-studded cast including Ralph
Fiennes, Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham and English actress
Tllda Swinton, as well as the relatively unknown and young Tony
Revolori of California and the Irish actress Saoirse Ronan
("Atonement"), is one of 23 movies in competition, of which 20
are under consideration for the festival's Golden Bear trophy
which will be awarded on February 15.
Anderson, who has made a string of eccentric comedies including
"The Royal Tenenbaums", "The Life Aquatic" and "Moonrise
Kingdom", said that for this film, shot at a German hotel on the
Czech-Polish border, he had been inspired by the works of the
Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig, who established his reputation
in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.
Asked by an American newspaper journalist who Zweig was,
Anderson said, "Stefan Zweig has not been popular in America or
in English for some years, only in the last mainly eight years
has he come back into print....But I think people in Europe are
surprised we don't know this writer.
"I read his book 'Beware of Pity', that's the first one I read a
number of years ago...Although our story is not based on any of
his stories, they're sort of devices and an atmosphere. My
intention was to do our own version of a Zweig story."
Anderson also was questioned about how he'd managed to assemble
such a distinguished cast, which prompted comedian and actor
Murray to say that he'd jumped at the chance because "we are
promised very long hours and low wages".
[to top of second column]
LET WES LIVE HIS "DREAMSCAPE"
On a more serious note, Murray said that he'd appeared in several of
Anderson's films in order to "allow Wes to live this wonderful,
magical life where this dreamscape comes true".
The film is set in Zubrowka, a pastiche of several Central European
countries, and involves a rich widow's inheritance, her scheming
family, a rise of a fascist military replete with a "zig-zag"
swastika-like slogan, and at its core, the relation between
Fiennes's character Monsieur Gustave and Revolori's character as a
lobbyboy called Zero.
Anderson said the role of Monsieur Gustave, who is portrayed as
being sexually ambiguous even if he is a lady's man for the widows,
had been written with Fiennes in mind.
Swinton, under tons of makeup created by the same
person who made Meryl Streep look like the aged Margaret Thatcher,
plays the wealthy widow while Ronan, sticking to her natural Irish
lilt, is Zero's sweetheart, with a birthmark in the shape of a map
of Mexico on her cheek.
Anderson, who said the idea of the Mexico birthmark occurred to him
because he is from Texas, and Texas was once part of Mexico, said he
couldn't have asked for a better cast.
But for him, he added, "The most important is bringing all these
characters to life in a fantasy country."
The 1 hour-35 minute movie, which is shot in parts to resemble films
of the period, elicited a generally positive response from the
first-showing press audience.
"It's very much a Wes Anderson film, with a little more complex
narrative than his past films, but the fact it was inspired by
Stefan Zweig's writings is quite interesting," said critic Andrew
Grant of the Fandor.com website.
"It's quite charming."
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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