On some level a director has to be a good general.
February 16, 2014 6:31 PM   Subscribe

“But I think, Wes is by anyone’s definition, an auteur and there aren’t that many. Hollywood doesn’t really… that’s not their game anymore.” (previously)
posted by octothorpe (36 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

“But I think, Wes is by anyone’s definition, an auteur and there aren’t that many....

Well, there's him and there's Kanye.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:44 PM on February 16 [4 favorites]

Though, actually, Kubrick is the more logical comparison. Can't help but think of his reading 500 books on Napoleon.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:48 PM on February 16

One thing that fascinates me about Wes Anderson is reconciling his public persona as a sort of twee Cloud Cuckoolander and the fact that he directs feature films for a living. Which you really have to have your shit together on a lot of levels to do. It's not a gig for pie-in-the-sky socially awkward sensitive types.
posted by Sara C. at 6:50 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]

One thing that fascinates me about Wes Anderson is reconciling his public persona as a sort of twee Cloud Cuckoolander and the fact that he directs feature films for a living.

Interesting. I would consider Anderson's personality to be very severe - very much in line with the article's described "dinner at eight" and "everyone lives in Görlitz" mentality. To me, his movies seem to convey an almost complete lack of whimsy in their approach to twee content. Max Fisher, for instance, doesn't just keep bees - he founds a bee-keeping society. His work really seems to ooze formal structures. They're quaint formal structures, like Explorers' Societies and Boy Scouts, but formal societies nonetheless.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:57 PM on February 16 [37 favorites]

That's a really good point.
posted by Sara C. at 7:01 PM on February 16

his public persona as a sort of twee Cloud Cuckoolander

I've never seen him this way. He's never come off as that in interviews & articles, to my thinking. I've certainly seen the ever louder anti-Anderson camp paint him this way, but he's always struck me as a very fastidious and obsessive guy extremely dedicated to his craft and vision. A very professional chap.
posted by xmutex at 7:07 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

It's very middlebrow, but Anderson and Tarantino are the two directors who will most reliably get me to actually buy a ticket. Almost as often are del Toro, Herzog, and Gilliam.
posted by fraxil at 7:11 PM on February 16 [6 favorites]

I don't agree that the auteur is a dying breed. Commenters over there name a few: Lynch, PTA, the Coens, Malick, and fraxil lists even more. Obviously directors, like everyone, are subject to Sturgeon's Law, but I actually think there are a lot of very good directors who create films with very specific visions floating around the cinematic world.
posted by protocoach at 7:16 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]

I really like most Wes Anderson movies, but his best films are very very indebted to Owen Wilson as co-writer, and in fact this new one is the first screenplay he's written on his own. So unless we're pretending scripts just don't matter at all, "auteur" is not really the appropriate term.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:27 PM on February 16

I really like most Wes Anderson movies, but his best films are very very indebted to Owen Wilson as co-writer, and in fact this new one is the first screenplay he's written on his own. So unless we're pretending scripts just don't matter at all, "auteur" is not really the appropriate term.

So Kubrick's not an auteur either?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:09 PM on February 16

I'm quite interested in the new Wes Anderson that's about to come out, but I've never gotten around to seeing any of his other films (besides Fantastic Mr Fox). I am also an alum of the school featured in Rushmore from about the same time and that's always put a weird cast on his work for me. I'm going to have to sit down to read this and see if I can get past the unnerved feeling a lot of (the advertisements for) his work gives me.
posted by immlass at 8:37 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]

Woody Allen and Spike Jonze, to name two off the top of my head.
posted by furtive at 8:49 PM on February 16

I'm not actually much of a believer in the pure auteur theory but traditionally it holds that the director can be the "author" of the film regardless of whether he/she wrote the screenplay.
posted by octothorpe at 9:04 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I'd venture the guess that the auteur is alive and well in film making nowadays. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. You go to a Christopher Guest movie or a Terry Gilliam flick or any number of directors, and while the content is different you have a good sense what kind of movie experience you are in for. Some of the better ones, (I'm thinking the Coen brothers here) can transcribe that feeling onto very different types of movies.
posted by edgeways at 9:09 PM on February 16

Going to Maine's comment is quite astute, and has galvanized my own opinion that the commonly-held judgment of Wes Anderson's films as "twee" is superficial at best. Precious might be more apt, if one really needs to use one-word judgments for an entire body of work.

I am an unequivocal fan of Anderson's films, and I think that their merits extend beyond the quirky humor, religious application of Futura, and precocious musical selections. They are indeed precious, like handmade ornate musicbox-with-ballerina. Its delicate beauty partially obscures a depth of craftsmanship and obsession rarely matched. Even the comical moments have such a calculated edge to them, perfect little dioramas of humor, and always always always there's this backdrop of saudade, permeating every inch of the culluloid.

They may appear at first reading to be whimsical and playful films, but they really aren't at all.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:18 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]

Also, just to echo the chorus: there are plenty of "auteur" directors out there...the majority of whom are not working in Hollywood. My recollection of film history is that this has pretty much always been the case, no? Ooh, Peter Greenaway just came to mind. I think he's still making films so he definitely counts.

The real story of course is not that Hollywood supports fewer auteurs than it did in the past (debatable), but that every day Hollywood becomes a little less monolithic, a little less relevant, and a lot less important in the world of film. Yay!
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:28 PM on February 16

A friend saw the trailer and said. 'They may as well have named this 'Wes Anderson Movie'"

Which is fine with me, actually. I never got on the backlash bandwagon.
posted by thelonius at 9:33 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

i think that one of the things that bugs me about wes anderson movies, is that they do not have the depth and messiness of adult realtionships, they at their worst seem to be about a child playing toy soilders, and this explains why. he doesn't even really have the darkness of kubrick, who's autocratic tendency seemed to be a bulwark against disorder. i cannot imagine anderson making barry lyndon.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:06 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

Requisite viewing for any Wes Anderson thread.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:10 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

i think that one of the things that bugs me about wes anderson movies, is that they do not have the depth and messiness of adult realtionships, they at their worst seem to be about a child playing toy soilders, and this explains why.

Sorry, I'm not following you here. Kubrick was quite dictatorial, as you've said, and yet he made Barry Lyndon. I'm not sure why Anderson's fetish for order would keep him from capturing the messiness of adult relationships. This is all subjective, of course, but to me most of Anderson's movies are about adult relationships that have gone awry: the broken Tanenbaums, the adults in Moonrise Kingdom, who all have the same damage as the kids, and the difficult, weird relationship between Steve and Eleanor Zissou. Without a doubt, Anderson is more prone to making things storybook-like than Kubrick, but there are plenty of dark storybooks.

i cannot imagine anderson making barry lyndon.

Nor can I. Well, that's not strictly true: I haven't seen Barry Lyndon. But I can't imagine Anderson doing Paths of Glory, or The Shining, or Clockwork Orange either. Possibly Dr. Srangelove. But I don't think Wes Anderson wants to make a Kubrick movie, nor do I think he has to want to. He wants to make a Wes Anderson movie. If he decides to take on themes that Kubrick was interested in addressing, they'll come out all Wes Andersonified at the end.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:28 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]

i think that one of the things that bugs me about wes anderson movies, is that they do not have the depth and messiness of adult realtionships

I'm sorry, but no.

The Royal Tenenbaums is all about the various forms of utter emotional destruction that occurs when a strong-willed parent refuses to act like an adult.

The Life Aquatic is about an aging adult attempting to come to grips with his mortality and fading manhood. It is literal and figurative depth going on here.

The Darjeeling Limited features three sons attempting to come to grips with the death of their father and the abandonment by their mother, along with re-constructing their own flawed, adult relationships.

From Richie's on-court nervous breakdown and later suicide attempt in the bathroom, to Steve Zissou crying seeing the leopard shark while being comforted by his family and friends, to the Whitman sons' mother disappearing yet again -- messiness and depth is to be found in Wes Anderson.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:48 PM on February 16 [9 favorites]

What I would say, though -and again, just speaking for me- is that in general the emotions in Anderson are kept at arm's length. These are all adult situations, but we see them with a detachment. I know that I've been overcome with joy a few times in Anderson films, but I'm not sure if I've ever cried in sadness. Well, maybe at the Jaguar Shark? But that moment was so campy.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:59 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

I got a little teary in Moonrise Kingdom at the end, but I assume it's mostly because I have daddy issues
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:03 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]

I keep wanting to like Anderson's movies, but, aside from Life Aquatic, it's never happened for me. Darjeeling Limited had a few moments that really excited me, but that made the rest of the film, and especially the ending, all the more disappointing.

I could never put into words what it was that turned me off. Then after I was once again disappointed by Moonrise Kingdom, I read a review that said something like, Wes Anderson's films feel like really immaculately styled dolls in dollhouses, that are put there more for him to play with and admire than the viewer ... I don't know, to me that really rang true. But I'm not here to shit on him. Technically and visually I find a lot to admire in them, it's just aside from Aquatic they've always left me with this really hollow, empty feeling.

I'll continue to pay attention anytime he releases a new one, hoping that he tries something different, but the trailers I've seen for this new one feel like the same old schtick. I'm happy for everyone else who does get a lot out of them.
posted by mannequito at 12:00 AM on February 17

I love his movies, but does a dog have to die in every one of them?
posted by freakazoid at 4:56 AM on February 17 [3 favorites]

The thing about his movies is that I've seen them more than twice, all of them, and each time I have a different reaction. Even if I think, oh yeah, here's that part were X happens and I feel Y, I might still see X happen but I feel V instead of Y and I notice some other thing as well. In short, it's never as simple as I'd thought. That shit, that unexpectedness, is golden. I mean, you can't beat that with a stick.

As a friend put it, whatever else, you know with his movies you're gonna see something.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:22 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]

I hate Wes Anderson movies—they just feel so fake to me, and not in an endearing way. I think the review mannequito cites has the gist of it.
posted by limeonaire at 9:30 AM on February 17 [2 favorites]

i cannot imagine anderson making barry lyndon.

No imagination required.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:39 AM on February 17

This is so strange to read. I have such incredibly strong emotional reactions to every one of his films. I mean, not just sadness (though they usually have me sobbing), but childlike excitement as I experience whatever new world he created. I feel like his characters all have a messy, uncomfortable, but realistic humanity that contrasts so well with his perfectly clean and well coordinated backdrops.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 11:54 AM on February 17 [3 favorites]

I am so excited. Is it too early to schedule a tune up for my plinky harpsichord?

freakazoid: "I love his movies, but does a dog have to die in every one of them?"

Yes, this. I have never been able to figure out why Snoopy had to die in Moonrise Kingdom. It just crossed a line of darkness that I never can seem to reconcile in my brain with the rest of the movie.

Relevant: Does Wes Anderson Hate Dogs?
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:05 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

i think that one of the things that bugs me about wes anderson movies, is that they do not have the depth and messiness of adult realtionships, they at their worst seem to be about a child playing toy soilders, and this explains why.

To me, The Life Aquatic is a quintessentially adult movie about adulthood.

It's about a group of second-stringers, washouts, and also-rans who have managed to carve out some sort of identity and and home. Are the Cousteau and The Calypso? No. Do people snigger and laugh a little at them. Yeah, a whole lot. In some ways Team Zissou are "The Little Rascals" as adults and I can hear a lot of people saying "Shouldn't y'all get real jobs at some point?"

But in the end they're a team. You don't fucking kidnap our insurance company stooge, you don't storm our ship and take chunk out of our intern, and yeah, we're keeping espresso maker because we fucking drove off the Pirates.

Steve Zissou may not be lauded and respected, but he's got a boat and a crew close as family, and they keep sailing and filming. At some point, that's enough.

I like to imagine an ancient copy of TLAwSZ being acquired for a movie night by the crew Serenity.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:10 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]

Just to try & elaborate on my earlier thoughts: at the basic level, I'd say it's that Wes Anderson likes to think about whimsical stuff in a very precise way. He wants to outline every facet of a world, and there's something perfect and quaint and Victorian about that - everything ornate and just so. I think that he probably finds formality and routine kind of freeing. If you wanted to try and go from that observation to something more general about all of his movies, I'd hypothesize that/wonder if you could read his films by looking at how they are based around individuals trying to smash and reform these perfectly detailed and defined social units. That is, one or more matchbox-like societies exist at the movie's start, are concussed by interacting with individuals, and then both individuals and societies get reformed by those impacts; the greater world is largely left untouched. We might also take this to mean that his films can be often read as "person vs. " and are generally resolved by "person not getting quite what they want, but adjusting to it, and maybe the society makes some adjustments too". I'm no film student, & this is a little half-baked, but maybe it'd go like this...

In Bottle Rocket, your societies include the starting Texas society that Anthony & Dignan hate (see Futureman), the ideal gang of robbers that they are trying to be, James Caan's "Ocean's 11"-like gang, the latino society of workers at the motel where they hide out, and the, uh, prison at the end. Anthony & Dignan are like two particles bouncing between these groups. Dignan is unable to find a place for himself with any of them (until perhaps the close), while Anthony can find a society with Inez and other parts of his life that are left off camera. We could also note that the central tension in the trio of robbers can be ascribed to them not wanting to fill their assigned roles (as dictated by Dignan) - they can't hang loose, while presumably James Caan and his folks can.

In Rushmore, your societies are the high schools and Max Fisher's assorted groups. Really, it's a movie about Fisher's failure to mold Rushmore because he just doesn't have that power, and how he eventually begins to mold the public high school. You also have the period where he decides that his society should be that of the barbershop - that he should basically join the Max Fisher's Dad's Barber Society, even though he hates it. Blume's attempt to seduce Ms. Cross can be thought of as his trying to move from the terrible society of his family to a better one. (I'm not dealing with Max & Ms. Cross here, because I can't.)

In Tanenbaums, your society is the Tanenbaums: the family as a whole and the small nuclear families that the children have formed. (Though you get hints of outside societies - the other ends of Chas's phone conversations, the posters for Margot's plays, the Japanese embassy next door, the archeological dig where Ethelene works, Eli's drug connection...) Every character is in opposition to the current state of affairs. The society begins to really get blown apart when Henry, an outsider, proposes to Ethelene, which gets Royal back into the picture... and we're off! Similarly, it takes Raleigh's hiring of a private investigator and his findings about Margot to blow up another part of the family. Everything is static in the society, and then its participants react in extreme ways (Royal moves back in and gets found out, Richie slits his wrists), and that results in the family having to redefine itself. (At the end of the movie, is Walter Sherman a Tanenbaum?) A further note on the Royal goes-crazy-with-the-grandkids montage: while this can be read as a bunch of random, fun activities, it can also be seen as a systematic, organized set of activities intended to undermine Chas. In other words - a very structured whimsy.

In The Life Aquatic, as noted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey, you've got Team Zissou as this society of burnouts, with all kinds of codified rules and facets but that has been decaying for a long time. Team Zissou, and all the other exploring teams out there, exist within the umbrella of the society of explorers. The appearance of outside actors Ned and Jane blow it up (though, of course, Esteban's death has also begun a process of destruction - but a process that would have fizzled without Ned's cash allowing it to go bang). In the end, Team Zissou is reformed and stronger.

O, The Darjeeling Limited. You've got another family as society, as well as the society of the train. As the brothers' relationship decays, completely, they get tossed off the train. (With all their baggage! Inherited from their terrible father! Which they later lose! There should be a word for that kind of obvious visual Mickey-Mousing. Probably there is, but I'm not going to TV Tropes.) External events then bring them back together and eventually get them back on the train out of India. Their situation with their mother is resolved in a montage sequence that suggests the oneness of all individuals, brooding alone, and a single unifying society despite their all being apart. Then they get back on the train and go home. Sorry, this is taking longer than planned and I dislike this movie. Also, it's really interesting that the two principal Indian actors in the film are both obviously Indians who were born and raised in the US. A deliberately inauthentic style choice.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox! It's been too long since I thought about it, but my basic recollection is that the animals all end up forming a new, better, more close-knit society than they had before. Ash was an outsider, even in his own family, but now he's accepted. A community is created by the animals in the sewers where once there was none, and grocery store Nirvana will sustain them for some time. (Although, of course, nothing is forever...)

Moonrise Kingdom! You've got two defective families, one that's given a lot of family time and one that's only suggested in scattered shots in montages. I would argue that that sort of makes sense from an Anderson style standpoint - the chaos of Sam's hope seems to be just that - and it feels like it has no place on the surface of an Anderson movie. (Social service's orphanage, on the other hand, feels very real just because of that one extremely regimented photograph.) You also have the society of the Khaki Scouts, which is very regimented but also something Sam likes - though he likes it in the ideal, not as manifested in the real personalities of the Khaki Scouts. Indeed, the Scouts are, for all intents, Sam's true family. They, and Suzy's family, are the groups cracked open by the couple's departure. It's worth noting that unlike these other movies, our protagonists are actually trying to start a new society - just the two of them, living on a secret beach. While their effort would appear to be doomed to fail, Sam's adoption by Duffy makes it possible for this new society to continue in secret. Further, it's not clear that Suzy's escape from her family has really caused any kind of change in them - you can't have a scene where her parents lie in bed talking about wanting to be sucked up into the sky and destroyed and assume that anything has gotten better. If anything, the big result was Duffy's being dumped, making him free to help Sam's society with Suzy continue. From a failure to change emerges a new possibility for someone else.

posted by Going To Maine at 2:27 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]

Just, if anyone is still in on this - Press Conference For the Grand Budapest hotel. It's pretty raw footage of the thing, which is nice
posted by From Bklyn at 11:41 AM on February 20

At Pitchfork, you can stream the soundtrack.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:46 AM on February 25

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