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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Genius of Wes Anderson

This post is way overdue, especially considering the title of this blog. But I am prompted by my recent obsessive watching of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I just bought the DVD last week and have watched it at least 10 times already. Though I don't think that I will ever catch up with the screenings of Bottle Rocket - it is surely over 100 times by now.

The funny thing about my obsession with Wes Anderson's films is that I have a hard time describing it - it is more of an emotional response than a cerebral one. There is something about his films that is very evocative of my childhood - the sense of naivete combined with a sense of mischief and absurdity. Paste Magazine hit on this very issue in an interview last month:
"As the afternoon passes, the more we talk about the new film, the more animated we both become. Hand gestures, sped-up voices and references to old National Geographics mark the reversion of two guys in their mid-30s back to our preteens. I mention that my wife frequently notes she peaked at 12. Her imagination and fearlessness were at their height, and the corruption of the adult world had not trampled on her childish wonder. I bring it up because in all his films Anderson has kept one foot firmly planted in childhood’s inner circle, while the other searches for a foothold in adulthood’s harsh reality."
It is that very innocence that appeals to me in Dignan, Max, Royal, and Steve Zissou. Yet it isn't just innocence; as Wes says about Owen Wilson in the commentary for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, there is a wiliness as well in each character. I can very much relate to that, as I like mischief more than most.

As crazy as it may sound, it is this quality of Anderson's films along with the sense of humor that brings me closest to my brother. In many ways my brother and I could not be more different; yet our mutual love for these films makes me feel like no one gets me more than my brother. I suppose that this is genetic, as some of my fondest memories growing up were watching the absurdist humor in Pink Panther movies with my dad.

Yet, Anderson's films don't elicit big belly laughs. With me, it is always a constant snicker, similar to Blume's reaction in Rushmore to Max:
MAX
I like your nurse's uniform, guy.

JOHN
These are OR scrubs.

MAX
(pause)
OR they?
Did I even mention the use of music in Anderson's films??? I cannot recall any director with a better sense of how music effects a film and an audience. Hearing Elliott Smith's "Needle in the Hay" as Richie tries to kill himself in The Royal Tenenbaums brings tears to my eyes everytime. As does David Bowie's "Life on Mars" in The Life Aquatic. And I can't help but grin a mischievous grin when I hear Creation's "Making Time" from Rushmore or "Zorro Is Back" by Oliver Onions in Bottle Rocket.

My Wes Anderson obsession has also become my litmus test - anyone that I meet who mentions that they like his films almost automatically become good friends. And conversely, it is such a bummer when I meet someone who says, "I just don't get those movies."

Update: gaunilo has inspired me to request people to tell your favorite quote from a Wes Anderson film. Just leave it in the comments.

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