I have a weird relationship with these films. I actually enjoyed Tennenbaums and Rushmore, and want to see Moonrise Kingdom. But when I saw the trailers for Life Aquatic and Darjeeling, I could do nothing but roll my eyes. Don’t ask me why.
And to be honest, when I first entered the world of cinephiles, I was under the impression W.A. was some type of National Treasure, so it is quite interesting to see how divisive his work is.
I’m not sure what the inclusion of Cannes or getting big names stars has to do with anything. If a film is good, that’s all I care about. Indy 4 had huge stars and premiered at Cannes and it smelled bad. Real bad.
I don’t really mind that he uses the same tricks over and over – I just really dislike the tricks to begin with.
Ok lol i thought this was a thread about said directors being "smarmy| and displaying a “coy narcissism” in their works.
There is a depth there, that no superficial dialogue about him using the “same” style or themes can can penetrate, and long may it continue.
the life aquatic is pretty terrible. i enjoyed darjeeling, maybe cuz i was just back from india. and i will keep watching as long as he keeps finding something for bill murray to do :) but i don’t think he’s done anything that great aside from tennenbaums, which i love
“And to be honest, when I first entered the world of cinephiles, I was under the impression W.A. was some type of National Treasure, so it is quite interesting to see how divisive his work is.”
I used to think the same thing. And to a certain extent, Wes Anderson is a treasure to cinephiles. It just sort of depends on what kind of cinephile. For example, a lot of people on Mubi hate Anderson but I would say 80% of the people I went to film school with adore him.
I don’t get the “empathy” in Anderson’s films. In fact, I think that’s the problem in them. He displays “empathy” solely towards his own “surrogate” characters – the self-obsessed, hopelessly insular manchildren with parental issues. Empathy is the ability to stretch outside one’s own narrow framework and I don’t see how Anderson does this at all.
Take The Darjeeling Limited, where he gives us a hopelessly exoticized and stereotypical picture of India in which the setting is barely a means for which his characters to journey towards self-exploration. Empathy? No. Narcissism, yes.
I really enjoy Wes Anderson. Not to say they’re the greatest films I’ve ever seen or anything, but you know…whatever. What I don’t like are imitators.
Well, with Darjeeling, you have that “exoticized” picture at first where everyone is within themselves and their own problems and not taking the self-exploration and human connection seriously, but that does change dramatically with the encounter with the Indian boys in the river, the narcissistic snark all goes out the window as they then stay at the village, and then decide to make the move they all feared of meeting their mother.
//I don’t really mind that he uses the same tricks over and over – I just really dislike the tricks to begin with.//
I was only being facetious when I wrote that list of directors including Hitchcock, Ford and Tarantino.
I didn’t mean to get all defensive…..
Life Aquatic is my least favorite of his films…..
“The vitriol hurled at Anderson in this thread is disturbing to say the least.”
No it isn’t.
You can easily reduce his movies to themes and character constructs with no other mystery remaining. His dialogue and mis-en-scene are stiff and see through. At his best he’s “not boring”. He tops it off with a shiny, 21st century “slickness” that makes the whole pill easy to swallow. Hip songs on the soundtrack, witty dialogue spoken by Bill Murray, etc.
The problem is not his consistent style, the problem is his style is boring and limited.
Compare him to someone like Ozu: all of his movies share a very similar aesthetic. Static, well framed shots, restrained acting, pillow shots, use of music in specific places, etc. But every film uses this style in a different way.
Late Spring: the tragedy of the film comes when you contrast the second half with the first half. Look how everyone smiles and acts stiff, and watch the point where Noriko starts to show how she really feels. Everyone else remains stiff and pleasant, while Noriko completely breaks down scene after scene, yet more or less hides it from everyone else. One of the most agonizing scenes is when Ozu cuts back and forth between Noriko and her father as she learns he is going to remarry. Look at how he plasters a painfully fake smile on his face while her face shifts to someone holding back tears. There is nothing this subtle or complicated in a Wes Anderson movie.
Now look at Floating Weeds some 10 years later. Very similar aesthetic, but now this restrained acting is used to reveal the selfishness of the main character (Kumajuro) after we see how"nice" he is in social situations. We learn he is a selfish, pigheaded person who has no clue how to love, so he simply runs away from everything that loves him. We see this contrast with his old flame, his new mistress and his son, who later shows his true (and naive) colors when he is in similar circumstances.
Over and over, Ozu uses the breakdown of social constructs and niceties to look at different people: pitiful people, kind people, selfish people, confused people. This leads to tragedy, comedy, and sometimes things in between. There are ambiguous moments, sounds, music and playing with space.
You could also go on: Bresson reducing every one of his films more and more, Tarkovsky exploring movement within the frame, Kiarostami as he tried to break down the wall between fiction and non-fiction. All of these directors have consistent styles because they are burrowing, they’re trying to explore different things with similar styles and to take that aesthetic to its absolute extreme.
I don’t see Wes Anderson doing any of this. His consistent style reveals nothing, because it’s the same formula every single time, with the same people uttering the same dialogue. It always feels like a show. I feel like I’ve eaten junk food. I’m not hungry any more, but I’m not really full. I just don’t want to eat anymore.
It’s funny, Submarine is definitely a comparable film to Wes Anderson but I kinda think it’s more like French New Wave and Hal Ashby than anything Wes Anderson has ever done.
Maybe it’s a European thing?
@ RGrimes – I think the Tarantino comparison makes sense. I don’t think Tarantino goes outside his comfort zone very often. Maybe the difference for me is in what Drunken said – I don’t mind Tarantino’s tricks as much as I do Anderson’s.
I think than in its homages to the French new wave is where Submarine fails. It lacks the ability to work on its own unlike the films of Anderson.
Random thoughts on the discussion here:
More and more frequently there is this argument that, metaphorically speaking,
chocolate is a better flavor than strawberry because of some natural law or agreed upon criteria.
That will never change, I guess, because in the realm of pop culture analysis there is
a tendency to employ one’s mere preferences as universal truths.
But apart from that business, here we have a few folks examining Wes Anderson through a lens that,
if placed directly over one of their favorite directors, might create an awkward situation.
Case in point: “they see him as a wasted talent so it’s the acid reflux of spurned lovers laced with some former affection.”
Paging John Cassavetes or Jim Jarmusch. Just for openers.
And speaking of awkward, if we are going to propose that repetition constitutes a method
that reveals limitation and instills boredom, then Ozu suddenly becomes a veritable poster boy for Seen One, Seen’em All cinema.
A plot exegesis of his pictures, or special pleading, doesn’t change that
if the criteria used to dismiss Anderson is used to examine Ozu.
I think even a brief glimpse of the production methods and the scale of work involved
for LIfe Aquatic or Darjeeling Limited would reveal that Wes Anderson
does more pushing and challenging than most directors working today.
That there are instantly recognizable and similar themes, tropes, and stylistic elements
in his pictures negates his being challenged as an artist how, exactly?
What I am most curious about, though, is how a director’s later work can “retroactively contaminate”
his earlier pictures. Not sure how that’s even possible.
Many of the comments here remind me of a Daniel Tosh joke,
about how his being statistically smarter than most people in the audience
doesn’t make him a bad person.
Apparently Wes Anderson comes across that way.
Or maybe a certain number of cinema enthusiasts are bothered by the sheer contrivances
and marvelous artificiality that make his films such a fun night at the movies.
Also, the distance from Rushmore to Darjeeling is roughly the same as the distance from Days of Heaven to The New World.
I’m a devoted fan of Anderson and Malick, and yes, they repeat themselves.
Often and loudly.
I really wish it were more often.
Hmm…well, I don’t disagree that Submarine failed. I think it did. But I think it did in part because it seemed overly concerned with mimicking other films. At least Anderson has a clear voice that is uniquely his (even if it is influenced by others).
John Cassavetes is a wasted talent???? Now you’re just pulling our legs!
Also, I don’t think anybody has said here that they dislike Anderson for the simple fact of him repeating himself. It’s because he repeats himself but with diminishing returns.
Just to clarify where I stand on Anderson’s “bag of tricks” – I am not against repetition, as long as what is repeated continues to work. His Slo Mo music montages have lost a little impact for me. Whereas I still dig his use of flat angles, and his joyful use of costumes and his humanity. I am not AGAINST repetition, but there is a risk involved.
As to Malick’s “bag of tricks” I loved New World (and have seen it 5 or 6 times) but I have not seen Tree of Life because I am afraid it will be too similar.
As to Hitchcock- Do we really want to compare Anderson and Malick to Hitchcock? Hitchcock constantly expanded his craft . Line up all the great sequences from Psycho to Birds to Notorious to Rear Window to Rope to Vertigo – they use very different means to create their effect. His cameos were very distracting, which is why he tried to put them as early as possible.
Anderson and Malick (two of my three or four favorite working directors) are in danger of molding content to fit craft, whereas Hitchcock usually expanded craft to fit his new content.
DFFO, no legs were pulled in the making of that post.
Using the same arbitrary criteria applied to Anderson by some here,
I think we have to place Cassavetes in that category. And he’s hardly the only one.
“I think even a brief glimpse of the production methods and the scale of work involved for LIfe Aquatic or Darjeeling Limited would reveal that Wes Anderson does more pushing and challenging than most directors working today.”
At a Q&A for Darjeeling, Anderson said he’s comfortable making the same movie over and over again. So if you think he’s challenging himself, maybe the joke is on you?
And I think it goes without saying that the last thing Wes Anderson comes across as is “smarter than the audience”.
The Tree of Life couldn’t be any more different from A New World (at least for me personally). I hated A New World (actually, I’m not much of a fan of any of his previous works) but loved The Tree of Life.
I know almost no one who doesn’t love The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s a very special film, a modern classic.
@ Doctor Lemonglow:
Well said sir. I wish I could have put it that well.
//I know almost no one who doesn’t love The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s a very special film, a modern classic.//
I think it’s one of the seminal works of the 2000’s. It’s a masterpiece. Luke Wilson’s Richie Tenenbaum is one of my favorite film characters of all time.
Dr. - Wait – are you saying Cassavetes is a wasted talent??? Or just that he repeats himself?
<3 Kumar Pallana.
“Dr. – Wait – are you saying Cassavetes is a wasted talent??? Or just that he repeats himself?”
I think he’s saying that Cassavetes wasted Seymour Cassell’s talent as much as Wes Anderson did (can’t argue with that – Cassell is an underrated genius).
Santino, I’m well aware of how Wes Anderson operates and his reasons for doing so.
Somehow I’ve never had the notion that he’s playing a joke on me.
But I’ll rephrase my question:
Where is it written that an authentic artistic challenge (or push) is dependent upon
the work of the artist in question being different from the previous effort?
As far as I can determine, that’s a wholly arbitrary pronouncement.
Just for fun, we could also ask what requirement exists for an artist to challenge himself in the first place,
and who says so.
Here’s another fun one: if we discovered, years later, that a particular favorite motion picture
was an effortless task for a director who specifically set out to repeat an earlier picture,
would it no longer be a favorite?
(You might guess the film I have in mind)
All I’m getting at with this is that the complaints about Anderson seem wildly arbitrary.
But yeah, Anderson IS smarter than most of the audience. That’s why he’s making the movies and the audience is just chatting about them on the forum. ; )
@ Doctor Lemonglow
I don’t know if you were referencing my post in regards to the “special pleading” for Ozu, but I do not think you really challenged anything I said, you simply dismissed it.
Again, for me, the problem is not Wes Anderson’s repetition of style, it’s that his style automatically limits his films. There is nothing open, there is no mystery, there is nothing deep because everything is wrapped up or explained away, played off as a witty, dry joke or reference. Repeating that same thing over and over will never make it better. It’s quite different from building or going deeper into a style: it’s shooting yourself in the foot every time you make something.
Look at the ending of the Royal Tennenbaums: every problem the characters have, every single person’s problems are wrapped up in ONE SCENE. Characters will admit things like “I need help!” and some nice, cute music plays on the soundtrack. Everyone realizes their faults, everyone forgives each other, and thankfully the patriarch can be forgiven and loved right before his death and slow motion funeral. Cut to cool Van Morrison song!
It leaves nothing for us. There is no doubt, mystery, or anything to think about. Everything is A-OK! The world is fine!
Now look at The Darjeeling Limited. The ending with them running in slow motion, with another hip song playing. The 3 materialistic people finally “abandon” their suitcases and shed their materialistic obsessions. While another HIP song plays!
The slow motion/soundtrack things are devices. Because Wes Anderson does not feel comfortable ending with doubt, ambiguity, or real pain. He needs his characters to change or resolve their “themes” in the most obvious of ways. It’s incredibly limiting and incredibly boring to me.
You can like his movies just fine, but what I’m saying is his films barely have ANY DEPTH. He is incredibly overrated. He is more overrated than David Lynch. I’m not trying to be cynical, I simply do not see any worth there.
the risk of repetition is that it can flatten the meaning of what is repeating. – like andy warhol’s electric chair wallpaper.