The meticulous production design that recreated a famed eastern European hotel of the '20s in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel was key in transporting us back to a lost era of old-world grandeur and tradition. We're celebrating the film's UK cinema release this week by revisiting some of cinema's most visually impressive – or sheer overwhelming – hang-outs.
THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER (1989)
British director Peter Greenaway is known for elaborately composed, surreal visual extravaganzas, strongly influenced by Baroque painting. In this violent and lavish classic, an English gangster takes over a French chef’s high-class restaurant with his retinue of thugs. Meanwhile, his wife begins a risky affair with a quiet bookseller regular. Costumed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, it sees the garb of its characters change colour to match each new room they enter.
THE CONFORMIST (1970)
The look of this masterpiece from director Bernardo Bertolucci, collaborating with production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, is so lush it inspired a 2008 Missoni ad campaign. Set in Italy in the ‘30s, its decadent elegance reflects a corrupting Fascist era, as it tells of a man who, psychologically damaged by an incident in his youth, is eager to dissolve himself into society at any cost and is enlisted to facilitate an assassination.
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000)
Drenched with the melancholy of rainy streets and denied desires, this stylised and dreamlike Hong Kong classic from director Wong Kar-wai sees two neighbours (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) fall for each other when they realise their respective spouses are having an affair. It recreates a 1962 Hong Kong apartment block of richly coloured decor and lamps, with alleys of shadows and cigarette-smoke swirls set against Cheung’s cheongsam dresses.
THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT (1972)
In this cruel classic of masochistic passions, notorious German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder confines the action, and his gin-soaked fashion designer protagonist, to one ornately decorated studio apartment. The extravagantly attired Petra von Kant’s histrionics and meltdown play out against a huge Baroque mural of Nicolas Possuin’s "Midas and Bacchus" in a room filled with furs and mannequins.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
This classic sci-fi epic of space voyage and human evolution from Stanley Kubrick, who was obsessively involved in all aspects of his productions, is renowned for its set design and furnishings, from the bright red Modernist Djinn chairs – now dubbed "2001" chairs – throughout the stark white Space Station down to the astronauts' cutlery by famed Danish designer Arne Jacobsen. It's a stylishly slick vision of the future, channeled through '60s eyes.
CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER (2006)
If production-design porn of decadent opulence is your thing, you'll go for this Zhang Yimou epic, which marries the operatic delirium of Imperial palace intrigues (a poisoning conspiracy, amid a web of plots and counter-plots) with a visual splendour that made it at the time China's most costly film yet. Its colour-infused extravagance is over-the-top to the point of kitsch – but we're more than down with that.
THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973)
The pop-art trappings of this cult psychedelic classic from Alejandro Jodorowsky, which was bankrolled by John and Yoko, are a mind-bending onslaught of hypnotic patterns, extravagant colours and quasi-religious symbolism. About a thief who is on a quest for enlightenment, it sees the Chilean director and Tarot aficionado himself play an alchemist with a talent for transforming shit into gold.
CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972)
Ingmar Bergman's emotionally violent, supernatural-tinged portrait of three sisters – one in torment on her deathbed – is one of cinema's most chilling, and aesthetically sublime, portrayals of the female psyche. Set in a mansion in the Victorian era, overwhelming blood-reds set against whites saturate every room, adding to the mood of hysteria and general gothic creeped-outness.
RUSSIAN ARK (2002)
The setting is everything in Russian auteur Alexander Sokurov's hugely ambitious historical drama experiment. It's filmed – remarkably, in one uninterrupted shot – in St Petersburg's Winter Palace, which is now part of the Hermitage Museum. We follow the narrator, a ghost, as he drifts through the grandiose rooms, encountering various people from the city's 300-year history, from tsars to a desperate man making his own coffin during Leningrad's siege.
Italian maestro Dario Argento's cult giallo horror is rated for its striking visual flair, and is drenched with nightmarishly lurid colours that feed into its folkloristic intensity. The setting is a prestigious dance academy in Germany with elaborate stained-glass windows, geometrically-patterned walls, and echoing passageways, which its new ballet student resident from America comes to suspect may be run by a coven of witches.