Apart from literature and music, one of my other favourite distractions is cinema. I’m into absolutely everything- from the gentle hues of Sofia Coppola’s gorgeous films to the grisly brutality of Tarantino, all the way back to the French masterpieces created by the one and only Jean-Luc Godard. I just love films! However, it wasn’t until I watched my first Wes Anderson film that I began to appreciate cinema as an art form in itself. I was blown away the first time I sat down to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. Everything about it was unbelievably flawless. The cinematography was as aesthetically pleasing as one could possibly imagine. But it wasn’t just the style- the film had heart and soul too, and even left me teary-eyed by the end. It was clear the film-maker hadn’t sacrificed substance in favour of style. He managed to nail them both. And because I love writing, particularly about things I’m interested in, I thought I’d put into words my jumbled thoughts on some of Anderson’s greatest work.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
I thought I’d start with the first Anderson film I came across. This movie is hilarious, pleasing and heart-breaking. It made me, as a viewer, feel infinite emotions all at once. I watched this without any knowledge of who Wes Anderson was; I knew not one single thing about the type of cinema he made. This, I think, was a positive way to view- for the first time- his highly interesting vision. It made me even more appreciative of what I was seeing on the screen. Not a single take is messy. The set, the props, the script- it’s all so unbelievably refined and exhilarating. I could watch it again and again and again… just marvelling at its prettiness and perfection every time, and never getting bored.
The Royal Tenenbaums
Quite famously, the cast didn’t get along very well for this one. Apparently Gene Hackman was a bit of a bully towards the director and the other actors weren’t having it. However, the tension and hostility that must have took place behind the scenes works brilliantly for this flick. The plot revolves around a group of relatives who embody the term “dysfunctional family”. The multiple relationships we see, founded on both resentment and familiarity, are immensely relatable even if slightly absurd at times. There are seriously dark themes running through The Royal Tenenbaums, but still Anderson manages to create a beautiful portrait of different aspects of the human condition. He does so in an admirably sensitive way.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
In my opinion, this is without a shadow of a doubt the finest out of Wes Anderson’s films. I don’t even know what to say about it other than the fact it’s a masterpiece. As devastating as it may be, it is- at the same time- an unbelievably lovely thing to watch. Plus, Bill Murray (who I’ve been partially obsessed with since Ghostbusters) is amazing in his role as Steve Zissou. There’s a scene near the end of the film (SPOILER) where he carries his dead son (played by Owen Wilson) out of the ocean and it gives me shivers every time I re-watch it. There’s no music, no sound or anything- you can’t even see the faces of the actors because the camera’s so far away. This proves how wonderful the film truly is. No theatrics are needed by the end to break the hearts of its viewers. I could go on forever about this film. A definite must-see, and also, something that deserves a few re-watches to be fully appreciated in all its greatness! Another favourite moment from is one of the last scenes. In the background the song Staralfur by Sigur Ros plays (an amazing Icelandic group who coincidentally happen to be a favourite of mine!) and the titular character- Steve- is looking out from his submarine at the shark he encountered many years ago. Everyone is in awe of its beauty, even Steve who had planned to blow it up. Still reeling from the death of his son, he emotionally says of the shark, which obviously represents something deeper and metaphysical: “I wonder if it remembers me.” It’s one of my favourite moments of cinema!
Moonrise Kingdom is a touching classic. It’s romantic, though not in the typical sense, and altogether adorable. For some reason I find it slightly different to Anderson’s other films despite the fact it contains most of the typical conventions. It’s unique- to say the least- and accurately captures the frustration of every child when they’re not listened to or are being dismissed by everybody around them.
The Darjeeling Limited
Anything starring Owen Wilson is a win for me (I’ve wanted to marry him since I was about six). The Darjeeling Limited is a fantastic attempt by Anderson to show the dynamics of siblings in an honest yet quirky light. It’s another example of how this dream of a director can blend both comedy and tragedy but still achieve an ideal tone. It reminds me a lot of Tenenbaums in terms of the vibes; incredibly dark topics are portrayed amidst a colourful scenery palette, but overall the effect is a disarming one. A really fascinating, unexpected story line unfolds.
Some other Wes Anderson classics that deserve a mention are Hotel Chevalier, Fantastic Mr Fox, and Rushmore. I love them all!