Film 25: Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel (1932) dir. Edmund Goulding. USA.

Fascinating atmosphere is woven through the story, reflecting the beehive of a fashionable foreign hotel (it’s in Berlin) – its gaiety, sorrow, strivings and just aimless bustle. There are spirited glimpses of a vast hotel switchboard with a jumble of words; the lobby is angled as a huge round well of many levels and the marble floored exchange at the bottom; the crowded bar and dance floor furnish the background for a strong sequence. Nothing is said or done directly to bring out the circumstances of this exciting locale except in the plaint of the bored old doctor: “People coming, people going – always coming and going – and nothing ever happens.”

The drama unfolds with a speed that never loses its grip, even for the extreme length of nearly two hours, and there is a captivating pattern of unexpected comedy that runs through it all, always fresh and always pat.

–Alfred Rushford Greason

Abigail:  This was enjoyable enough.  It was exciting to start to see the actors, all of whom were terrific.  And the story is passing fair.  The film, however didn’t transcend the sum of its parts.  It defies categorization, and suffers because of it.  It starts out as a delightful seeming comedy, adeptly jumping from phone conversation to phone conversation.  It keeps up the comedy with quick romance and destitute members of the upper crust.  It devolves however into a brutal murder and desperate fleeing.  The change in tone doesn’t help us to see society clearly, though, rather it muddies the world that was built in the first act.  This was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, but in my book, isn’t a lasting piece of cinema.

Forrest:  I liked this movie.  I doesn’t feel especially significant, looking back on the great sweep of film history, but it was smart and affecting.  The performances were uniformly excellent, John Barrymore’s nose was every bit as magnificent as you’d hope, and the tragedy was surprisingly emotional — all the more so for how it was underplayed.  It felt like a stage play, but utilized the conceit well.  By never leaving the hotel, and by intercutting the stories, it effectively conveyed the notion that every guest has a compelling story, and we just happened to glimpse these few.

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