Today marks the end of (7) Days of Wes Anderson, and there’s something bitter-sweet in admitting the sense of relief that comes with it. Although I still enjoy his work just the same, there’s something off putting about dissecting a film from beginning to end. We become so aware of its technical aspects and try to name every element to the point where it stops being about the film and, in turn, it stops being about the story. There is beauty in becoming part of the plot and emotionally invested in characters, just as there is a beauty in the ephemeral quality of the world that we choose to live in for at least an hour and thirty minutes. In analysing the film’s worth as a work of art, it’s easy to forget to appreciate it as one.
Yes, there are practical perks on learning to think objectively and being able to offer unbiased judgements that go beyond your first impressions of a film. However, if I’ve one lesson to share with aspiring film critics, it’s this: Watching it once is not enough. Watch it twice, or even thrice. Don’t fret over camera angles or scene composition from the start, devote your first viewing to the story. Take off your thinking cap, sit back and enjoy. This way, not only do you get a feel of it and the emotional response it evokes, but if there happened to be any technical element that particularly stood out, you’d be quick to pick up on it.
The amount of detail and time devoted to planning a film alone is often undermined, and the decisions that screenwriters and directors have to make are taken for granted. Learning to see them from different perspectives gives you an appreciation for the thought that was put into it. I don’t intend to take apart any more of Anderson’s work any time soon, but I can re-watch any of his films in peace, knowing that I can appreciate them for what they are while also being able to hold a substantial conversation about their aesthetic values and the stylistic choices exclusive to them.
Click on any of the following titles to hear my thoughts on them: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Hotel Chevalier.
The last film in our line up is Wes Anderson’s most recent release, The Grand Budapest Hotel. During his stay at the Grand Budapest, a writer makes the acquaintance of the hotel’s owner, who tells him the tale of how the hotel came to be his. This stroll down memory lane is where most of the action takes place, taking us back to Germany in the early 1900s, also known as the hotel’s golden years, when it used to have Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) as its diligent and devoted concierge. Witness an unlikely friendship blossom between him and Zero (Tony Revolori), the new lobby boy, in this tale of theft and proving ones innocence even in the most inconvenient of circumstances.
We will now take a break from our regular programming. Rather than assessing one of Wes Anderson’s feature length motion pictures, I’ll be talking about one of his short films, Hotel Chevalier. Originally intended to be a stand-alone piece, it actually serves as a prologue to The Darjeeling Limited, which I assessed in my previous blog entry. Hotel Chevalier revolves around Jack Whitman (Jason Schwartzman) as he reunites with his ex-lover (Natalie Portman) in a Parisian hotel.
It’s time for another family reunion in The Darjeeling Limited, the story of three estranged brothers who take a trip through India in a feeble attempt at bonding. But when things start going wrong, they’re forced to put their differences aside and face their problems head first, making the best out of the situation and undergoing unexpected changes in the process.
Wes Anderson takes us for a ride into the open sea with his fourth film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Join Steve (Bill Murray), a renowned but washed-up oceanographer, as he takes on the quest of hunting down the “jaguar shark” that devoured his best friend during the filming of a documentary. He is accompanied by his crew, his recently acknowledged son and a reporter who’s writing a cover story on him. This is the story of what happens when they face the hardships of the sea and of getting along.
Meet the Tenenbaums, a family that seems to be one in name only. The Tenenbaum siblings, who used to be child prodigies, were raised in a dysfunctional household and grew up to become enveloped in their personal tragedies. The parentals aren’t far behind; they’ve been separated for decades but have never been formerly divorced. This is the story of what happens when they all find themselves coming together in what ends up being an unexpected family reunion.
Welcome to Rushmore. Here, we follow the story of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), an eccentric 15 year old with a talent for playwriting and a love for extracurricular activities. He’s deemed one of the worst students of the academy, but don’t let this fool you – he’s a clever kid with high ambitions, the problem being the handful of character flaws that set him back. It’s a typical coming of age story, but it’s a coming of age story done right.
Wes Anderson gives his first steps into the world of cinema with Bottle Rocket, a mild but charming comedy that revolves around three friends who aspire to become thieves even though they are clearly not cut out for the job. A quaint set of secondary characters is scattered throughout, complementing the main cast without overshadowing them and adding a touch of personality to the story as a whole.
To those not familiar with him, Wes Anderson is a film director and screenwriter who has a peculiar and easily recognizable style when it comes to storytelling, both in visuals and narrative. His name has reached the mainstream not only due to the critical acclaim of his work, but because of its quirky style which is so often associated with indie cinema.
He has worked on ten feature length motion pictures since his directorial debut in 1996 with Bottle Rocket, co-written with Owen Wilson. Wilson went on to become one of Anderson’s recurring collaborators, which also include Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Anjelica Huston.
You might want to remember those names, because they will be mentioned frequently over the course of the following week. Why, you ask? Today marks the beginning of (7) Days of Wes Anderson, a blogging project that consists of watching his films and writing an assessment for each on a daily basis.
My goal is to analyse Anderson’s work in regard to the consistency of his stylistic choices and mise-en-scène by tackling topics such as:
- camera shots, angles and movement
- colour palettes
- scene composition
- sets and props
My analyses will not be limited to aesthetic critique, however, as I will also be identifying and exploring the recurring themes in his work, as well as touching on his narrative pacing and character development.
Seven of his films will be assessed in chronological order, starting off with Bottle Rocket and wrapping things up with The Grand Budapest Hotel. I hope to share my thoughts on Wes Anderson’s work with other fellow fans while also rendering him discoverable to those who haven’t heard of him, hopefully enticing them to give his films a watch.