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Monday, April 6, 2009

Editorial: Wes Anderson

By Guest Blogger
Dustin Hamlin

From the moment I saw the trailer for The Life Aquatic, something hooked me. I couldn’t tell quite what it was, and I’m even having trouble defining it now, but there was some quality there that I had never seen in film making before. And that makes sense, because Wes Anderson is a director with such a completely unique vision.

The thing about his movies is that they can’t be cast easily into a genre. Sometimes they are though, and it pains me to read a review exclaiming Rushmore to be “One of the best comedy’s of the year!”. That totally misses the point. Yes Wes Anderson’s movies can be funny, but that doesn’t mean they should be slapped with the comedy stamp and shipped off to slave away making us excrete laughter. That’s like a guitar that can only play one note. Sure that note might ring beautifully, but it’s only going to stimulate on one redundant shallow level. When Wes Anderson makes a film, he strings it with the entire spectrum of human emotion. They slide from hilarious to heartbreaking, and don’t make a spectacle of it either. Other directors might nudge and prod for the desired emotions, performing the cinematic equivalent of holding up a queue card printed with the word “Cry”.

It never feels like that with Wes Anderson though, and that’s exactly why I love his films so much. He’s content to just let things happen, and allow the characters to be the emotional set pieces; not the sweeping violins, or the cloying close up of a tear rolling down a lost love’s cheek. There doesn’t need to be a startling conclusion, or an intense heart-pounding tearjerker of a third act. There doesn’t even need to be a traditional “wrap up”. Sometimes just a brief excerpt from life is good enough. Not all strings need to be tied, because then you know it’s artificial.

When the three sons from The Darjeeling Limited finally use their collective initiative to reconnect with their Mother, a mother who abandoned them multiple times, she just simply leaves again. The family wasn’t happily reunited after all their struggles, and the camera didn’t zoom out as laughter was heard from the happy bunch. And that’s okay. That’s what happened. There’s no pretending that these artificial conclusions take place in reality. When two lovers finally embrace each other’s feelings and share their passionate kiss, there’s no director to walk in and say cut. The credits don’t roll. Things keep moving, and people keep living.

Despite my annoyance with Wes Anderson’s movies being labeled as comedies though, I do find them hilarious. There’s some funny stuff in them, and I think the reason why his comedic style resonates so well with me is because of the same principles. There are no “Insert laughter here” moments. No jokes are set up or even delivered. Its just people being the people they are, and I love that. Wes Anderson fills his movies with so many eccentric arbitrary details; then compliments them all with a completely unique sense of cinematography. As Margot from The Royal Tenenbaums walks towards her brother in slow motion set to "These Days", the scene verges on profound with it’s simple sincerity. Done any more elaborately, and the beauty would’ve been crumpled.

So that’s a bit of why I love this man’s movies so much, and why he’s now my favorite director. It’s hard to articulate exactly why I feel such a connection to his work. I’ve just never before seen such a brilliant and cohesive mix of emotions. Wes Anderson is a storyteller who’s not afraid to deny the need for a tired worn out rubric. I doubt one’s ever even existed to him.

You can investigate Dustin Hamlin further at his YouTube Channel.


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Wilder Shaw said...

Thanks a lot! Keep reading.

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