I haven’t got a lot to say about Wes Anderson. Perhaps I’m not sure exactly what to think of Wes Anderson. He’s one of those people whose work boils down to taste. You love him or you don’t. A bit like Belle and Sebastian. He’s certainly honed his quirky idiosyncratic style. Do I like his quirky, idiosyncratic style? For about fifteen minutes. By then I realise I won’t see anything accidental, spontaneous, organic, natural, or real. Or moving. The extent of the pathos in a Wes Anderson movie is well within the parameters of his own clever ideas, his own control. I’m not sure why actors seem to be lining up to be in his movies – there doesn’t seem to be much room to act freely, amongst all the rigidity of camera set-ups, costumes, posturing, marks, deliberate dialogue. I imagine it’s the desire to be associated with something cool. It’s a good boost to career cred. It is nice to see Edward Norton back, albeit playing well within his range.
But Wes Anderson is a visionary, he creates his own world, you might say. That he does. It’s a cute world too, hip, whimsical. But lifeless. I’m not passionately against his work. I thought The Royal Tenenbaums was amusing, but I couldn’t see much beyond a series of cute ideas. Let’s have a dad and his two sons in matching tracksuits. Let’s have a guy dressed like Bjorn Borg. Et cetera. It’s a cartoon world, sure, but I’m falling to glean much more than that. To me, it seems kitsch.
The writer Milan Kundera had this to say: “Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.” There were plenty of children running on the grass in Moonrise Kingdom.
Wes Anderson’s best film is Hotel Chevalier, the short that precedes The Darjeeling Limited. That film resonates. He’s tapped into something deeper there, while retaining his visual flair.
And that’s all I have to say about Wes. Don’t love him, don’t hate him. But I’m sure Ray Carney would have a few words. And I adore Ray Carney.
I love Belle and Sebastian, by the way.