@GF in Coma: I think that if anybody but Anderson had used “Christmas Time is Here” as part of a soundtrack, I would have been angry, but it really worked for me in that scene
Not for Drunken Father this mere high-school level symbolism in which Anderson traffics;
no, give him instead the deep thoughts of THE SHINING, the impossible-to-miss Freudian imagery in ERASERHEAD, and the nuclear subtlety of the key symbols in KISS ME DEADLY.
Sorry, DFFO, but I had to break some balls after your remark. All due respect and affection.
^ Why you gotta mess with KISS ME DEADLY?
“So . . . I’m still confused. Is the problem with Anderson that he’s a self-involved narcisscist or that he’s an (apparently failed) ingratiator?”
The former, it seems. I guess foremost he objects to the levity of the tone of the piece in which it’s all structured around himself and his own reactions when dealing with a seriously ill individual. I can see his point. I think it’s callow. Anyway, I didn’t paste the rest of their exchange (Wes responds and Edelstein responds to Wes’s response) which ends up getting into he said/she said territory of what Kael agreed to and with or not.
All due respect and affection in my initial remark.
I should have left out high-school-level in that comment, cause I really don’t like most symbolism. Eraserhead is an exception cause the symbolism doesn’t point to anything so simple as “they need to drop their baggage” and there’s a lot more going on in that movie than just symbolism. I like The Shining for its atmosphere rather than any symbols it might have (I can’t really think of any right now). And I like Kiss Me Deadly precisely because it’s so un-subtle.
I just can’t stand this whole “oh, the kids on the bridge represent themselves” crap.
But I do seriously think there is a lot of deep thoughts in the Shining – only it’s not expressed through barely-under-the-surface symbolism, but through characters.
That was fun! Keep ’em coming! :)
Well, I just saw the film two hours ago. Probably at the exact same time it was opening Cannes!
It wasn’t my cup of tea, but so few are.
“I guess he objects to the levity of the tone of the piece in which it’s all structured around himself and his own reactions when dealing with a seriously ill individual”
Yeah, I got that sense too when reading Anderson’s original story. It was glaringly not insightful at all, which was disappointing. I’ve known people like this and they are incredibly difficult to get close to because while at one minute they’re making it all about them while at the same time keeping themselves at an arms length from others.
The piece was clearly about Anderson and his experience spending the afternoon with Kael but at the same time he didn’t reveal anything about himself or what he was thinking or how she made him feel, etc. It was instead a very surface albeit cute story. I would’ve thought that if you met someone you looked up to, you would be a bit more enamored or at least excited to talk to them.
Ari, DFFO, I thoroughly enjoyed all those pictures, fyi. I fully concur about KMD’s unembarrassed abandonment of subtlety.
I could also provide my take on The Life Aquatic, or would that make everyone vomit?
No I’d like to read your take on Life Aquatic. Although it’ll probably still make me vomit anyway! :)
^ I’m all for people defending films I hate. Go for it. The Life Aquatic is his most obnoxious film in my mind. Although it seems like many Anderson fans consider it his finest work.
I’d say Darjeeling is his most pukey.
But that might have something to do with Adrian Brody.
You know, I’m not going to fiercely disagree with you on that thing about Brody, Santino.
I have liked him in a few roles, but something undefinable sort of haunts me about him, and puts me off.
From this months s&s:
Anderson: I don’t usually think of my other movies when I’m making a movie, but the. Afterwards I realise, “oh gosh, there’s this thing that’s a lot like another thing.” it’s never my intention. I always feel like now I’m doing something completely different, and then all of a sudden everybody says, “So, this is very familiar to the ret of your work…” This always happens. For me it’s always a new thing, but I know it’s something in my programming. Everything gets run through the same operatin systems, and it comes out pretty similar to the last one.
I think a filmmaker with a solid artistic vision will likely make variations on the same theme throughout his or her career. I actually think that (unless one’s views are actually always changing dramatically) that is more mature than trying to be different each time. Lars von Trier said something like that in a (possibly fake) conversation online with Paul Thomas Anderson.
Rather than smarmy or self-aware or hip, I think of the filmmakers mentioned in the OP as whimsical.
I think I read somewhere someone said something along the same lines as Anderson. I believe it was Renoir. In what and when, I have no idea.
“The former, it seems.”
I meant that as a seperate thought, actually, as to what the thinking in this thread was . . . but no matter. Edelstein’s response seems disproportionately peevish. If anything, Anderson is making fun of the discongruity between his idyllic image of Kael and the actuality of her at that time, he’s not simply doing the piece to, um, speak ill of the ill.
“The piece was clearly about Anderson and his experience spending the afternoon with Kael but at the same time he didn’t reveal anything about himself or what he was thinking or how she made him feel, etc. It was instead a very surface albeit cute story. I would’ve thought that if you met someone you looked up to, you would be a bit more enamored or at least excited to talk to them.”
Well, to me it’s about his expectation (“lifelong fan”, “I started reading her New Yorker reviews in my school library when I was in 10th grade” and all) vs. the reality (“I was a little disappointed”). Personally, this rings true to me in terms of meeting people you idolize or once idolized, and having them look at your work. You go in expecting to get some sort of special insight either into the person or from the person about your work (or both!)and it very rarely works out.
“Rather than smarmy or self-aware or hip, I think of the filmmakers mentioned in the OP as whimsical.”
That’s the word I would probably choose as well. I guess the problem is that it’s a matter of taste where the line between whimsy and twee is drawn.
Lars von Trier: …I suddenly saw that I had an obligation to carry on with Grace, to carry on this way of filmmaking, because it’s very, very easy to invent new things all the time, but it’s not very mature, I feel. So if I really meant something with this film, then I felt I should underline it by going on. Because there are, as I see it, two kinds of directors: there are the ones that, every time, set a new standard, like Kubrick. And then there are the directors that keep on doing the same stuff over and over, again and again. Of course, there are mixtures between these types, but somehow, the mature one is the one that does the same, again and again and again.
Paul Thomas Anderson: You’ll say something different in a few years.
This goes on for days…
In so many words—often too many—a lot of film critics called Life Aquatic a self-indulgent near miss.
This time around, Anderson goes too far with the trademark irony, quirkiness, and arch formality that characterized his previous films, or so goes the wisdom in critics’ circles.
Taken as a whole, the reviews formulate a single objection that goes basically thus:
WA wore the same outfit to last year’s Christmas party, and how dare he show up this year
flaunting a jacket and tie that none of us had the nerve or style to wear ourselves.
(Woody Allen suffered similar abuse after making Stardust Memories.)
Well, my chief complaint is that Jeff Goldblum should have had more scenes in this picture.
His character is a Richard Branson type with a penchant for oceanography,
and Goldblum plays him as a too-smooth monster in flip flops and a very expensive terry robe.
It’s a brilliant turn, just as Cate Blanchett’s gum-smacking, very pregnant journalist
Jane Winslett-Richardson is an adorable surprise.
Willem Dafoe’s high-strung crew member hero-worships Steve Zissou to the point of schoolboy crush,
and his Teutonic accent and mannerisms make him even more ridiculous.
If it sounds at this point as if the plot hinges on the mere presentation of remarkable characters,
that’s because these detailed character studies derive from the film’s main metaphor: exploration.
After all, we don’t go under the sea to follow the narrative trajectory of the life of an octopus.
We are there to find out what that creature is like.
Wes Anderson brings us onboard the Belafonte to learn what Steve Zissou is like, and it takes about ten minutes to understand that Zissou is a lot like a spoiled teenager.
He smokes pot when the smallest crisis emerges, he exhibits an almost callous
disregard for the welfare of the creatures his crew encounters, and the most sophisticated technology
on his vessel is devoted to the spa and the kitchen.
When Team Zissou secretly raid Goldblum’s massive sealab installation for equipment
during an emergency, Murray grabs a cappuccino machine.
This establishes a companion metaphor (childishness and childhood) for the matter of exploration,
which in this case is more like examination.
If the unexamined life is not worth living, as one wise fellow suggested long ago,
then for Steve Zissou the unexplored ocean is not worth sailing.
But this time he’s going deeper, because there’s something bad out there/in there.
As he continues this examination, he learns more slowly than the rest of us that he’s got no ballast,
as it were, where maturity and responsibility are concerned.
Indeed, as the Belafonte’s mini-submersible drifts into uncharted depths,
Zissou mentions that eleven and a half was his favorite age.
That’s why the stop-motion-animated sea creatures that swim in and out of frame
have a place in this “real” story.
With their absurd physical features and obviously made-up names
(sugar crab, Hermés eel, rhinestone bluefin), this marine life is exactly what an eleven-year-old kid
might imagine lives 20,000 leagues under the sea.
It also reveals why the only festival-goer who “gets” Steve Zissou
is the little boy who brings him a seahorse (a “Crayon Pony-Fish”) captured alive in a plastic bag.
Later we learn that Zissou had corresponded with Ned (Owen Wislon) via fan club letters,
in which Ned asks Zissou if he ever wished he could breathe underwater.
“Yes, always,” he replies.
That’s the hope and dream of any boy fascinated with the aquarium in his room.
But Zissou suspects that exploring a life is tantamount to facing reality—that’s not a jaguar shark
he wants to destroy; it’s a life misspent via sustained adolescence.
Eleanor Zissou (“the brains behind the organization”), is onboard the submersible too,
and upon viewing the mammoth jaguar shark she says, “It’s beautiful.”
Zissou replies, “Yeah, it’s pretty good, isn’t it?”
The business of maintaining a child’s sense of wonder without becoming an overgrown brat is a burden.
But discounting adulthood because the fun has to be reined in might be the ultimate ingratitude.
That Murray conveys much of this with mere facial expressions is why
we run to the theater to see him these days.
At the film’s conclusion, Zissou lifts the little boy with the seahorse onto his shoulders
and carries his burden out of the festival auditorium and down the narrow village street.
The symbol is worth celebrating and savoring, which may be why the final scene is shot in slow motion.
All of this might be grim (or cloying) stuff were it not so dazzling and charming in its presentation,
which cleverly and painstakingly recalls the work of Disney, Charles Addams,
Orson Welles, and Ray Harryhausen, with more than a little James Bond and Jerry Lewis thrown into the mix.
The soundtrack is also a great big treasure chest;
Who knew that “Rebel Rebel” was a bossa nova gem?
Stunning locations are captured by cinematographer Robert Yeoman,
and the supersaturated color of various Team Zissou films is a delightful retro flourish.
Wes Anderson has always seemed like the kid next door who not only had all the coolest toys
and playsets in the catalog; he seemed also to exhibit a bit more imagination in playing with them.
Some critics resent that, especially since Anderson is also like one of those kids
who invited you over to play G.I. Joe, but only on his terms.
(The “making of” features on DVDs of Anderson’s films sometimes reveal this unappealing aspect of his personality.)
But hold on a second.
Anderson admits to, and consequently justifies, his indulgences throughout all of his pictures
with not-very-subtle winks and nods to viewers.
This method is expanded in The Life Aquatic, because the story deals with a character
who makes movies solely to enable his childish indulgences.
Steve Zissou might be Wes Anderson 25 years from now during a mid-life crisis.
In any event, the clues to the theme of this odd film crash across the screen in waves.
By the time pirates take over the Belafonte and Zissou leads his crew on a wild,
bullets-flying rescue mission, we can’t object to the sheer improbability of what transpires.
The picture leaps into the realm of the fantastic in a deliberately clumsy way.
The climax is no more convincing than the edited, re-shot, and staged events of Steve Zissou’s “documentaries.”
But this is how kids imagine the world.
Too bad it’s not how more filmmakers imagine the possibilities of cinema.
A few have, and a few continue to do so.
This movie puts Anderson in a category with (but not, in each case, an equal to) Tim Burton,
Orson Welles, David Lynch, (early) Walt Disney, Federico Fellini, The Coens, and Jean Cocteau.
Thanks Michael. I’ve read parts of that before. But I’m pretty sure Renoir said a very similar thing. I’m just drawing a blank on where I had seen it.
bravo, lemonglow! you’ve made me want to watch it again. i never tire of murray and the soundtrack was a delight. it deserves another chance i think
Ah, I thought you were making fun of me for not posting a source.
Oh no, I wouldn’t do that. I only make fun of people for being assholes.
@ LemonGlow- SPOILERS I enjoyed your long post on Darjeling though I find the drowning scene to be this- The three brothers remain unable to comprehend mortality spiritually. They are stunned by the event, but in the end they can only comprehend ritual (like the washing afterwards). At most they become aware that they are not really suffering themselves (like the father of the dead son). Sure they eventually get some sort of solace out of the feather ritual (after they get little but the “same old” from their mother), but they hardly become wise. One gets the sense that they have earned a little brotherly affection for each other, but not insight. I find that very amusing, almost joyous. They are still “those assholes” but they are a little less selfish. just a little. I find this an antidote to the stories that have been told about Westerners visiting India that end in profound enlightenment. that’s my two cents.
“They are still “those assholes” but they are a little less selfish. just a little. I find this an antidote to the stories that have been told about Westerners visiting India that end in profound enlightenment.”
I like that a lot.
me too xD ^
i guess everyone else is puking now :p
Yeah, Drunken Father Figure of Old just projectile puked all over my shoes. He was classy about it though. Gave me a “sorry my bad”
“They are still “those assholes” but they are a little less selfish. just a little.
There are going to be times when the train can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the train or off the train. If you’re on the train, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the train in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.
Bill Murray and Seymour Cassell were textbook examples of actors providing us with subtle characters whose motives and feelings ranged from ambiguous to poignant, often registered by mere facial expressions.
(I STILL can’t determine if Cassell’s character was hurt by his son’s attitude or if he accepted it out of compassion and wisdom.)
But actors’ abilities are just one piece of the film. Anderson does everything to subvert their talents through his direction. Its been a while since I’ve seen his films, so it’s really something I’d need to be watching to point out the details. But it’s in his mise-en-scene and dialogue mostly, along with audio cues and the acting style he enforces.
That’s a personal dislike functioning as an objective critique.
Anderson is in trouble because he chose another “hip” song?
(By the way, those suitcases did not represent material obsessions. They were a symbol for all the family drama/ strained relationship “baggage” they had carried for too long.)
Yes, when he uses them as a cheap device, it’s bad. Look again at the ending of the Royal Tennenbaums. The slow motion ending shot and Van Morrison song comes as a very obvious punctuation to all of the hasty 3rd act “Wrapping up” that was done before. This is all a storybook ending: one minute everyone has problems, the next moment, a car crash happens that makes everyone realizes their faults. And then we have an ending where people virtually join hands. Sorry, there is no truth in that for me. If there is for you, you truly live a blessed life (and I don’t mean that sarcastically).
And in reference to Darjeeling’s ending: you’re just proving my point. It’s rather goofy. “No no, the suitcases symbolize THIS!” The fact that they symbolize anything in this way is incredibly limited and boring. He is showing ideas, not experiences. Ideas are stagnate and boring.
Also, about your claim: “Wes Anderson does not feel comfortable ending with doubt, ambiguity, or real pain.”
I don’t have time to list all the excellent motion pictures that do NOT end with any of that.
And I can’t FIND a list of Movie Rules that dictates Anderson should end his pictures that way.
My point is that he avoids any ambiguity at all costs, anything genuine, anything that may make the audience actually need to soak in or question themselves. And yes- that’s what great art does in my book. His films are too easy to swallow, his style is too much an amalgamation of other films and he repeats this style over and over. So his repetition isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that he is not bringing anything new or challenging to the audience. This is fine, pop music does this all the time. But it doesn’t make him a great director of note, it makes him a guy who makes catchy, empty-headed films.
Maybe I haven’t been clear: I don’t object to anyone claiming they do not care for Anderson’s pictures.
I just remain unpersuaded by so many claims—all rooted in mere preference—that Anderson has done something wrong, or has somehow failed.
But isn’t that what arguing about art is all about? Do you expect someone to say “I don’t like Wes Anderson because he dropped the camera in one scene!” You are never going to find that kind of objectivity in a discussion like this. No one is going to make you unlike something. There are some things I like that I know aren’t very deep or “Great”.
Also, I want to clarify that I was comparing Wes Anderson to Ozu because both were used as examples of “repetitive” style. My point is that Ozu used the same style every time to exam different types of people, and out of that examination comes ambiguity, questions, interesting scenes and emotions. That never gets stale.
However, when you start with something that is stale and shallow to begin with, and then repeat that over and over, it will always be that way. It’s limited.
This is spot on IMO. I like Wes Anderson for a few reasons: he has one of the most distinctive, instantly recognizable styles in all of cinema; his visual style is really pretty; his movies exude cleverness, everything about them down to the camerawork, set design, and cinematography is funny or clever; I also feel like I understand his attempt to show the difficulty people have connecting with each other and finding meaning beneath a perceived meaningless surface. There’s something inspiring in his portrayal of humans as desirers, searching for a meaning in a magical world and never finding it except when they aren’t looking.
But I dislike him for the same reasons.His outlook is too whimsical and his films too easy to swallow. I don’t feel like he captures anything near the totality of the reality of the situation of the human or of interhuman relationships. There’s too much asexual, apolitical, magical whimsy in his films and not enough of a challenge to the viewer. Everything has to be ironic, winking, clever, smirking. It seems like he might refuses to take his movies seriously or make himself vulnerable. Miranda July is a bit better in this regard because she at least puts herself on the line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y0cwsiNFmQ
Looking forward to Moonlight Kingdom. :)
“This is all a storybook ending: one minute everyone has problems, the next moment, a car crash happens that makes everyone realizes their faults.”
Sort of, yeah, narrative artificiality is part of the deal with Anderson—it has a story book beginning to complete with a shot of the the first page of the prologue:
For what it’s worth, I see the ending quite differently—to me the family was quite aware of their faults all along, but they can’t escape them. All Royal’s death does is afford them the opportunity to (possibly) escape the “destroyed sinking battleship” that is the Tenenbaum family as they know it.
If you look at how the last scene is actually played, it’s not exactly a model of sentimentality and familial warmth (which is what I’d expect if this were an “all’s well that ends well” type ending). In fact, there’s very little emotion expressed all, noone speaks, and there’s even very little in the way of eye contact—a few flowers dropped into the grave is about all you get in the way of expression. Then they walk out and the closing of the gate is the closing of the “book.”
Having just rewatched The Royal Tenenbaums, I can honestly say it holds up. In fact, my only criticism is with the pacing and weak narrative. The quirky cuteness didn’t really bother me. But man, what they say about the second act being a desert wasteland: ain’t that the truth.
And yeah, even though Hackman didn’t get along with Anderson, he delivered a fine performance. Too bad he didn’t end on this one, instead of the dreaded Welcome to Mooseport.