Let me tell you about Wes

Every movie that Wes Anderson has made has given me shivers of pleasure. His aesthetic is everything that I love all rolled up in one place. As a matter of fact, when I am watching one of his films, I feel like he made it just for me. When I meet him one day, I'm going to thank him for that.

Last night I went to see Anderson's latest production, Moonrise Kingdom. I walked into the theater giddy with excitement and walked out wiping my eyes from the sweetness. On the car ride home I was framing everything in my field of vision - the traffic, the buildings, the people in their yards - as if they were storyboards in a Anderson film. Try it sometime, even the shabbiest of sights morph into something artistic and curiously innocent.

People dance together when they fall in love.
That innocence that he finds in everything and everyone, to me, is the heart of his work. No matter how deceitful the character or how ordinary the place, you get the feeling that you're viewing the scene as a childhood memory. And all the filters and revisionist history of remembering the past come along for that ride.

Sometimes grown-ups need to go outside with an axe and a bottle of red.
Anderson's movies have a "hey kids, let's put on a show!" (Little Rascals) quality. The sets, costumes, characters, dialog (and all the other stuff that movies are made of) seem to be designed from impressions. Let me clarify. I can draw a shark by sitting at the aquarium and sketching from life, or, I can just sit down with paper and draw a shark. An actor in a Wes Anderson's movie doesn't follow a doctor around for a month to learn to play a believable doctor... he puts on a white lab coat and stethoscope and plays his idea of a doctor, seemingly drawing from childhood impressions. Pulling that technique off so beautifully is one of the reasons I think Anderson is brilliant. It is a slippery slope where the movie could come off lame and amateur, but his never do. It becomes charming and leaves room for the visuals and music to help buoy up the story he's trying to tell. I think his characterizations work, in part, because he employs actors who "get it" and are able to make the process sing.

So, what makes me watch his movies over, and over, and over again? More than anything, it's the sets. I want to live on a Wes Anderson sound stage. The colors, the light, the furnishings...all so imperfect, but somehow perfect together. The style is always a careful blend of artistic and utilitarian. Every prop in every shot tells the story of the place and gives you insight into the character who belongs there. The most obvious example of this is the children's rooms in The Royal Tenenbaums:

I know that Anderson has a distinct style, and some scoff that he is a "one trick pony". I disagree. He's not a filmmaker who is bringing to life someone else's screenplay, his movies are cradle-to-grave his own. He is an artist creating a body of work. Like Picasso's cubism or Richard Avedon's portraits, he is creating a series that in retrospect will make perfect sense. An artist has to explore every nook and cranny of the theme that is driving them to create.

Thanks for letting me gush on about this subject. And, for the record, I could keep on going...


No comments:

Post a Comment