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May 21, 2012

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Jonah

Was nice to read this and Todd McCarthy's nearly-as-glowing review--both highlight the music, too. Not that I wasn't anticipating this before, but it certainly doesn't sound like any kind of misstep.

I was disappointed that the festival review of "Moonrise Kingdom" by Cahiers editor Jean-Michel Frodon was just a particularly condescending version of the old "If this is the sort of thing you like, you will like this" line--adding that the film was basically pointless ("inutile"). Hey then moved on to the purportedly more "ambitious" "Rust and Bone." I admire Frodon, so I don't want to assume that he's indulging the frequent critical prejudice that imagines comedy to be less profound, "serious," or important than searing drama. It's probably more that he just hasn't warmed to Anderson's approach, which as you point out in your review, is plenty ambitious in its painstakingly "composed" nature.

(By the way it's interesting that on the evidence of Frodon's review, "Rushmore" doesn't seem to have been released in France--a shame, as I think it's his best picture along with "Fantastic Mr. Fox".)

It's funny; for me, the "emotional resonance" that so many highlight to defend Anderson's films is mostly theoretical--the exceptions being parts of "Rushmore" and, at least after having seen it many times, the climax of "Fox." For me, the key to Anderson's greatness is in his intensifying the "decorative" aspect of cinema to something transcendent. Usually to call something "decorative" in an artistic context is to denigrate it, but watching (and thinking about!) Anderson's films I find their decorative qualities a source of tremendous, sustaining pleasure. I always find something new and, yes, clever in his best films: a thoughtfully-paced zoom that actually seems to reflect meaningfully on the legacy of verité aesthetics, a motif whose complex patterning only occurs to you on the umpteenth viewing, a particular configuration of autumnal colors that offers an unexpected jolt....

All the arguments about whether Anderson is self-absorbed, whether his characters are privileged, the virtues of "quirk," etc. seem largely unrelated to why I admire his films so much. Although part of me wonders if somewhere within those arguments is a (subliminal) debate over the meaning and relevance of the "decorative" in art.

lipranzer

Jonah, while I agree about Anderson's "decorative pleasures", I disagree about the emotional resonance being "theoretical". I think Anderson presents it right up front; think of Ben Stiller finally breaking down in "The Royal Tenenbaums" (still my favorite Anderson movie), or the funeral scene in "The Darjeeling Limited".

At any rate, even though I need to save my money thanks to being unemployed, I am definitely going to see this opening day.

Jonah

I only said that it was "mostly theoretical" _to me_; I wasn't making any grand claims about how others experience or should experience Anderson's films. His films unapologetically seek emotional responses, and I have no trouble believing that they are deeply moving for many, particularly "Tenenbaums" which seems to be the closest to a consensus favorite and one I just can't bring myself to love as much as several others.

Jonah

Apologies for that run-on sentence. Supply your own periods.

Bettencourt

I just saw it last weekend, and though I'm generally not as big a fan of Anderson as many on this site are, I thought it was truly lovely and much more genuinely emotional than I expected. For me it ranked with Rushmore and Fantastic Mr. Fox as his very best. (And I know this couldn't be a more obscure comparison, but am I the only one who thought Bill Murray in the film looked like an overweight and less handsome Caleb Deschanel?)

And while we're on the topic of directors that many SCR readers like more (in this case, MUCH MORE) than I do, did anyone else read that David Gordon Green is about to remake Suspiria, with Isabelle Fuhrman (the orphan from Orphan, and recently seen in The Hunger Games)?

Did Suspiria have such a strong premise or story that it's worthy of remaking? (I doubt they'll remake the visual style, but you never know). Or did Black Swan convince people that thrillers with a ballet background are a marketable genre?

Oliver_C

"Wes Anderson needs to grow up"

Anderson *DID* grow up, back in the mid-90s, before 'Bottle Rocket' had even completed its lengthy, previews-and-reshoots route to the screen. It occurred the moment he ditched his original treatment (a 'Reservoir Dogs'-esque heist-gone-wrong tale, complete with pop-cultural deliberations and the Luke Wilson character running into close-up in slow motion and shouting "NOOO!!!!!" when Owen gets fatally shot).

Jonah

It's interesting to think of "Bottle Rocket" as one of the more wayward sons of "Reservoir Dogs." I guess it's obvious once you place it in that mid-'90s context, but nowadays Anderson's films inhabit their own universe as much as Tarantino's that it takes some reminding.

David Ehrenstein

So glad you brought up "I Know Where I'm Going." It was right on the tip of my tongue. It's not that Anderson "needs to grow up," it's that we "need to grow DOWN." There's genuine enchantment at work here, and I'm quite surprised at those who don't get it -- particularly the French. My friend Dennis Cooper (who has been living in France for close to a decade now) and is a humingous Wes fan says the French "just don't get him at all." Weird -- especially with all the evocations of Truffaut.

The visual stylist I find Wes has most in common with is Joseph Cornell. His composition are Cornell boxes with real people in them instead of dolls and detritus.

MarkVH

Wonderful review. Couldn't possibly be more amped to see this. It feels like Anderson, more than any other current director (e.g., Tarantino), is someone who rode in on a wave of adulation that soon turned to scorn for no good reason other than that a) he refused to change his aesthetic and b) it became cool to dislike him for refusing to change his aesthetic. I've never wavered from my love of his films and can't wait for this one.

Also, in thinking about it (and understanding that I'm a huge fan of Darjeeling), when was the last time a director had a three-film run as good as Darjeeling-Mr. Fox-Moonrise Kingdom? It seems that even fans have a tendency to marginalize his movies for being so typically Andersonian, yet at the same time I'd put his current run up against that of just about any working director.

Nicolas Leblanc

This is a truly wonderful film. Was mostly taken aback by the reviewers which decried it as being too mechanical or "lacking heart." The interplay between Suzy, her mother and father (from the first shots of the film, ) make for some of the saddest moments in all of Anderson's filmography.

@David Ehrenstein: 'My friend Dennis Cooper (who has been living in France for close to a decade now) and is a humingous Wes fan says the French "just don't get him at all."'

I don't know in what France your friend lives. In the France I live in, MOONRISE KINGDOM got mostly positive to glowing notices and TENENBAUM, LIFE AQUATIC and FANTASTIC MR. FOX are revered.

Lex

What year do I set my Moretzendar for?

Petey

"In the France I live in, MOONRISE KINGDOM got mostly positive to glowing notices and TENENBAUM, LIFE AQUATIC and FANTASTIC MR. FOX are revered."

I'm glad to see that some country likes Zissou. It's his best film, flaws acknowledged. But back in the US, back in the US, back in the USA, it always gets a 'meh' response. Sorta like the way that The Hudsucker Proxy gets no love, even though the Coen brothers never quite managed to actually top it.

(Tenenbaums is a gem, but even still, its flaws are even more glaring than Zissou's, and its strengths are weaker.)

Hell, Zissou wins on the soundtrack alone. And the picture track ain't too shabby either. They even work well together.

Jake Hardy

More frustrating than "Anderson needs to grow up" is perhaps "Anderson fears women".

David Ehrenstein

"Fears women"? How? I don't see that at all.

Zach

I'm glad to see all the positive notice that MOONRISE is getting. MR. FOX was a brilliant return to form after what I thought was a somewhat lacking DARJEELING LTD and ZISSOU. Excited to see it.

@ Petey - Zissou is Wes' Best? You and SteveZ been hittin too much of that hooch. It succeeds as a comedy, but the more serious beats are just that - they feel inserted into the narrative, rather than the spontaneous and organic feeling of the TENENBAUMS or RUSHMORE. Nothing beats the bittersweet finales of those two films - pure cinema in music, motion, and performance. I'm one of those who holds that Wes is at his best as a writer when he's bouncing ideas off of Owen Wilson - so far, those have been the most fruitful of his collaborations (with the possible exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox).


bill

Yes, LIFE AQUATIC is his best. This is a true statement. Murray's best performance, too.

Petey

"Zissou is Wes' Best? You and SteveZ been hittin too much of that hooch"

As the film itself demonstrates, wrong choice of drug for that specific flick.

Zach

Well, not to nitpick, but by "hooch" I am referring to the intoxicant I'm pretty sure you have in mind. As someone from Zissou's era would certainly have recognized, I daresay.

LondonLee

I wasn't a huge fan of LIFE AQUATIC either but watching the action sequences I did think Anderson would be the perfect person to make a Tintin movie.

Petey

LondonLee for the win.

MovieMan0283

Re: Zach at 11:34, yes yes yes. I will look forward to seeing Moonrise for several reasons, but while always interesting most of Anderson's latest films have been disappointing to me. And I do feel that, as a collaborator, Wilson brought out more of his warm, humanist side than Baumbach did (it will be interesting to see how the new film, with Coppola as apparently his only co-writer, pans out in that regard). Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited seemed to be striving for that hard-to-pin-down-yet-perfectly-realized-mood which Tenenbaums and Rushmore achieve so effortlessly.

I don't know that he needs to "grow up" but I do think his enchanted little tent has become a bit too hermetically sealed. What made the earlier films (perhaps Bottle Rocket too, which I need to see again) so poignant was that they were fully realized mini-universes that still existed in relation to some form of reality. They were like dreams the viewer was in the process of waking up from, trying to cling to the bittersweet melancholy vibe while the waking world began to creep in.

Fernando

Interesting thoughts, MovieMan0283. I deeply love all of Anderson's movies and recently saw RUSHMORE (my favorite movie, by anyone, and the movie that really turned me on, so to speak, to the possibilities of cinema) on 35mm/the big screen for the first time. I noticed how many locations in that movie look like straight-up Houston, not Andersonland. Even in TENENBAUMS and DARJEELING, the real-world locations have more of a fussed-over look to them, or just seem more painstakingly hand-picked. Not to say that RUSHMORE is some gritty vérité trip, but just compare the house at 111 Archer Avenue to Grover Cleveland High School.

Fernando

Also, an anecdote: Christmas Day, 2004, sixteen-year-old me drove 90 miles each way to the nearest theater showing THE LIFE AQUATIC and got a bit sick on the way back due to the bitter headache caused by the inescapable sun directly in my sightline. It was worth it.

Zach

MovieMan0283 - thanks for your sharp elaboration on those ideas. I agree that in Tenenbaums and Rushmore, there is a sense that Anderson's meticulous world of artifice is permeable; the emotional stakes are partly built open the fragility of that world. I wonder if by making the artifice more solid & pervasive, Anderson (and his co-writers) have lessened the stakes. It seems possible; certainly, ZISSOU is by far the most artificial of all, and for me, again, it's the least emotionally affecting. I guess I should say here that I'm not AGAINST artificiality, or "plasticity," but that in the case of Anderson, it might occasionally work against him.

I think it's reflected most significantly in the characters. RUSHMORE's Max (a tour-de-force by Shwartzman that he has yet to surpass; since then he's got this swagger and occasional smugness that irks me) is flawed but deeply likeable, I think. He's heroic - pretty much the only occurrence of that in Anderson's canon so far, by the way (although it looks as though MOONRISE could change that.) Gene Hackman as Royal is also a wonderful performance of a great character - an asshole, as he says, but a great one to watch. But as much as I love Murray, Zissou just doesn't quite have that much depth - partly this is Murray being no Hackman, and partly it's that his character just doesn't go as deep. He's an overgrown boy - we know that immediately, and he doesn't really go that far beyond that. For me, the biggest flaw in AQUATIC is Ned's death, which felt unnecessary and dramatically fumbled - a contrived attempt to drive the story into more serious territory.

All of which isn't to say that I dislike AQUATIC - it's really a terrific film - I just think it's worthwhile to get into the nitty- gritty of what works & doesn't and why, especially with someone as immensely talented as Wes Anderson.

warren oates

Not a fan of Anderson's work. Probably my favorite or least hated up until now has been the fox film. But I'm strangely drawn to the trailer for the new one.

Bill or other fans of AQUATIC riddle me this: Is it just moi or is this film so perfectly attuned to the comic rhythms of Bill Murray that he doesn't really have anything to do? Whereas every other great Murry film works at least in part by contrasting him with the rest of its world.

Joel Bocko

(MovieMan0283 here - I accidentally removed my old sign-in for the last comment)

Fernando - yeah, Rushmore is interesting for the way it not just places Andersonland in relation to the real world, but actually within it. It also has a very "Peanuts" feel much of the time (don't they actually use a song from the Christmas special at one point), especially in the scenes with his father. Simple, unadorned, yet still with some of that magical sense that later he tends to reserve for wealthier milieus.

Zach - We're simpatico here too. The fragility of the worlds and the character within them seem to be highlighted more when he's working with Wilson. Baumbach, in his own work (at least that which I've seen), gives the impression of someone not much concerned with a world outside of his own. His characters are vulnerable, but in a brittle way and the threats seem more internal than external. Greenberg may kind of be an exception to that (maybe it's the Anderson influence working backwards?) but in general his films don't have a real tension between an inside and outside world, at least that I've noticed. I think the qualities he highlights in Anderson - the insular sense of privilege, the obsession with familial dysfunction (which can come to seem a bit rote, like the Spielberg divorce compulsion), the intellectualization of characters - are not Anderson's best qualities.

Joel Bocko

Another thing - it's fascinating for me to see where people draw the line in determining good/less-good Anderson. For some Rushmore is the last one that fully worked, for others it's Royal Tenenbaums. I wonder what that says about those people - and the films themselves.

For me, it's definitely Tenenbaums. It's definitely an acceleration of the trend that led to the later movies, and - as Fernando notes - the first one to really delve head-on into Andersonland and fabricate even the "real" locations. Yet it's still got Wilson's touch (although apparently he was MIA for most of the writing process and Anderson ended up doing a lot of it himself - but Baumbach wasn't involved yet anyway), and it's also got - as Zach points out - Hackman's magnificent performance, which definitely adds a pungeant dash of tangible reality to offset the magical moodiness that most of the later films have wallowed in completely. It's got a nice ying/yang texture to it still - and because it goes all-in on the Anderson mise en scene while maintaining a whiff of the impinging outside world I think it may be his masterpiece (though Rushmore is often my favorite). Plus I just connect to it personally - among other things, Royal reminds me a lot of my recently deceased grandpa.

Another thing - is location important? Rushmore and Tenenbaums take place in America and thus carry over a kind of national mythos from the real world. Their very textures contain overtones which even the fussiest Anderson treatment can't undo. But Aquatic and Darjeeling take place in unfamiliar settings (at least to westerners or, in the first place, landlubbers) where Anderson can depart further and further from a recognizably real-world universe. And also, those two movies have an autumnal setting - something not possible under the sea or in India (maybe one reason that Fantastic Mr. Fox, despite its outlier status, felt like a return to form for many). Fall is definitely the best season for Anderson. Perhaps another reason to look forward to Moonlight - I can't recall exactly when it was shot (and that screen-cap above looks more like late summer) but I seem to recall it was in the fall...maybe I'm way off on that. Wishful thinking, perhaps...

That Fuzzy Bastard

I remember watching RUSHMORE with a friend, and turning to him about 20 minutes before the end and saying "If this film ends with Max being put under a plank, and that plank being loaded with one boulder after another until the life is crushed from his mewling body, the townspeople cheering as his eyes pop from his skull, and the teacher he got fired jamming a foot into his nose as he breathes his last, then I really like this movie. Otherwise, this movie sucks." It wasn't Max wandering around fucking up decent people's lives that drove me nuts---I love me an unlikeable protagonist!---it was the director's conviction that he was making a movie about an adorably precocious li'l rascal rather than a sociopath. Where are The Shining Path when you need them?

That said... I think you're onto something, Zach. In Anderson's movies, the tension comes from the hermetic arty universe versus the mundane world (quite literally in the case of Rushmore, more tonally for Tennenbaums). In later Anderson (including Fox, I thought), the created universe is all there is. That's fine if you're Guy Maddin, and occupy a created universe fraught with crazy fears and rages. But Anderson's created universe is a perfect little snow globe full of pretty clothes and nice songs and no tasteless people, so nothing can happen inside it.

Petey

"Another thing - it's fascinating for me to see where people draw the line in determining good/less-good Anderson ... I wonder what that says about those people - and the films themselves."

No doubt. Rushmore has a Holden Caulfield clockwork perfection to it. Tenenbaums has a Franny and Zoey clockwork perfection to it. If that's all you need, fine, that's all you need.

But Zissou is MORE. As bill notes, it gives Bill Murray the full canvas to work with, which is something special. It also adds some Tati to the mix, which is something special. And it breaks down the hermetic world a bit by being a film about filmmaking, which forces some semi-autobiographical resonances to his work, and those are always fun.

And that's before we get to all the special effects of Zissou. The Seu Jorge doing Bowie is a special effect nonpareil. The boat is an amazing special effect. The sea itself is beyond an amazing special effect. And that's all before we get into the Selick actual SFX.

(I'd be remiss if I didn't note the special effect in Tenenbaums of having an LP play two songs IN A ROW during that amazing sequence mid-way though. Blew me away the first time I saw that, and wondered why nobody had ever done that before. I wonder if a la Hitch and Herrmann, Wes thought that he was just doing 60% of the movies before he handed them off to Mothersbaugh for the other 40%.)

Some folks are fine with Salinger-esque clockwork perfection. Some folks want MORE. As stated, even though it gets no love, I think The Hudsucker Proxy is the Coens' best film, even though it gets no love. Give me a highly ambitious, big canvas, every trick in the book, wild mess that somehow coheres over a small clockwork perfection any day of the week. That's why Zissou is Wes's best in any reasonable assessment. Same way Stardust Memories is MORE than Love and Death, even though Love and Death is pretty damn perfect.

Chris O.

Just read an article where Robert Yeoman mentioned Ken Loach's "Black Jack," Alan Parker’s "Melody," and Truffaut "Small Change" as particular inspirations -- he probably thought Powell/Pressburger went without saying, but glad you mentioned it, Glenn. I thought Tilda Swinton looked like Deborah Kerr as soon as I saw her in the trailer and there's a particular shot in "Darjeeling" that was very "Black Narcissus." Can't wait to see this.

Yeoman on shooting Super 16 for "Moonrise:"
http://www.studiodaily.com/2012/05/cinematographer-robert-yeoman-talks-super-16-style-on-moonrise-kingdom/

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