Three degrees of Wes Anderson

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In which Bwog newbie Thomas Rhiel ascends to the height of filmmaker fandom.

sfCritics seem to have lost much of their patience with Wes Anderson (He’s elitist! Self-important! Maybe even racist!), but I admit it: I can’t get enough. I want my characters quirky, forlorn, and constantly smoking. I want my frames symmetrical and colorful, crammed with eclectic knick-knacks and Futura Bold. I want quick pans and quicker zooms. Another slow-motion sequence set to a catchy pop tune? Yes, please, make me feel it.

So it was with a great deal of excitement that I set out on each of the following adventures, journeys into that fantastical realm of child prodigies, jaguar sharks, and Bill Murray. Tragically, each experience left me feeling emptier than the last.

One: On Tuesday night, the SoHo Apple store screened the premiere of Anderson’s Hotel Chevalier, a 13-minute prelude to his latest feature film, The Darjeeling Limited. Jason Schwartzman, Natalie Portman, and Anderson himself were scheduled to be there, and would take questions from the audience after the film. I arrived an hour early, which, considering the event’s scant publicity, I expected to be safe, maybe even worth a seat near the front. Instead, turning onto Prince St., I was confronted by a mob of fellow fans lined up against the Apple building and around the corner, many perched in folding chairs, some playing board games. Disheartened but not giving up, I trudged to the end of the line, where, after 30 minutes, an Apple employee kindly informed my neighbors and I that we should give up.

jTwo: Earlier this week, I heard from a fellow Bwogger that the house from The Royal Tenenbaums is for sale. So yesterday, adorned with a camera and a red Adidas tracksuit, I travelled to the corner of 144th St. and Convent Ave. to pay my respects. The house, a beautiful structure of bright red brick, is unmistakably the one from The Royal Tenenbaums: a destitute Royal descends those stairs with his luggage after his family kicks him out, an unstable Richie climbs through that window on the right after escaping from the hospital, and a doped up Eli Cash crashes into that iron fence in the movie�s final moments. I couldn’t figure out, however, whether or not the house was actually on the market. There were no “For Sale” signs or people to ask. I was left standing outside a locked gate, observing the overgrown lawn and some ratty-looking stuffed animals filling an upstairs window. I yearned for an uplifting Nico song to swell in the background or for a polka-dotted mouse to scamper past my feet, but there was no whimsy to be had here, no whimsy at all.

Three: Also yesterday, I saw The Darjeeling Limited. Several critics have hailed Anderson’s choice to shoot the film in India as a sign of the director’s maturity, a departure from his usual fascination with subjects wealthy and white. And while its setting gives The Darjeeling Limited a beauty new to the Anderson brand, it also comes at a price: no longer anchored to an East Coast boarding school, a New York residence, or a brightly hued boat, Anderson’s characters actually have to go places, leaving them no time for the endearingly eccentric passions–such as Max Fischer’s playwriting, Chas Tenenbaum’s enterprising, or Steve Zissou’s filmmaking–that made previous characters interesting and previous films engaging. If I can’t find Wes Anderson’s trademark quirkiness in the real world, I at least want to find it in a Wes Anderson movie.

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  1. jeez  

    The Darjeeling Limited was actually very nice; not as pointlessly quirky as The Life Aquatic, and much more with the emotion of The Royal Tenenbaums. Quirk alone falls flat is an easy, acceptably 'funny' way out of plot knots and emotions.

    Of course, this bwog post is pointlessly quiry, too. Read this:

  2. jeez  

    What's wrong with my typing? "falls flat is an" => "falls flat, and is an". Also, make that 'quiry' to 'quirky'.

    Actually, I change my mind. Nice post, but lighten off on the attempted semi-sarcastic meta-quirkyness.

  3. so, this post  

    really went the extra mile, huh? you didn't actually see Hotel Chevalier, you don't know if the Tenenbaums house is actually on the market, and your verdict on The Darjeeling Limited shouldn't have been about India. i'm sure that's ok, though, because i doubt bwog's readership includes many wes anderson fans (you know, people who have seen his movies and don't need a basic description of their style to know what you're talking about).

    seriously, though: what a completely unconvincing analysis of The Darjeeling Limited. the problem with the movie, apparently, is that "Anderson's characters actually have to go places, leaving them no time for the endearingly eccentric passions...that made previous characters interesting and previous films engaging." is this supposed to mean that wes anderson put so much plot into his movie he didn't leave any room for quirky details? what exactly makes this film's setting so different from anderson's others (most of which are not particularly grounded in realism or attention to actual places to begin with)?

    maybe next time a piece like this could involve some, you know, reporting, or actual thought?,

    • ...

      I would wager that 90% of Bwog readers do, in fact, like Wes Anderson.

      • hey genius  

        that was sarcasm. the point being that, since 90% (or however many) of bwog's readers are already familiar with wes anderson's style and the memorable scenes from his movies, you would hope that a piece about him would contain new information or thoughtful analysis. this post contained neither. (commenter #8 apparently knows more about Hotel Chevalier than the author does.)

    • rjt  

      Comment #3 is the worst Bwog comment ever. Can you guys start having "Our Least Favorite Comments" just so stuff like this can be on there. No, I suppose it would make it look like you can't take criticism. Anyway, this comment sucks.

  4. DPD  

    "He walked in wearing L.L. Bean duck-hunting boots and shorts," Wilson recalled, "Which I thought was kind of obnoxious." --> sounds like my kind of fellow

    And commenter 3 take a breath, this is a good bwog post

  5. My favorite  

    work featuring Wes Anderson was that American Express commercial.

  6. Darjeeling

    The Darjeeling Limited may be my favorite of them all. While the characters weren't as quirky, I actually identified with them. I could never identify with his other characters however interesting I found them.

  7. well  

    if there's any point, and you or anyone else is interested, iTunes is offering "hotel chevalier" for free.

  8. DHI  

    What does Chevalier mean anyway? Isn't it just short for Chevy Cavalier?

    • francais

      = knight in french, fyi.

      also, there is consistency to his films: they all objectify asians in one form or another. like, oh look, a slant-eyed brown skinned person is a prop in the background, just like the sailor suits and aquaria. how quirky!

      have to agree with the atlantic, even if it is constantly hemhorraging cred by doing stuff like moving to dc, going all political, moving stories to one issue, and hiring christopher hitchens right after he came out in favor of iraq.

  9. wrong  

    I don't know what you're talking about with an "East Coast boarding school" as part of Anderson's settings. Rushmore Academy is not a boarding school, obviously.

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