The Fantastic Mr Anderson: I love Wes films and you should too
PUBLISHED: 10:16 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:34 16 February 2018
With a season of his films in Norwich and this latest about to be released, Anna Blagrove says everyone should learn to love Wes Anderson, the quirky, whimsical, irrepressible mind behind Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
It’s nearly Valentine’s Day and I’m going to profess a (not-so-secret) admiration for a particular film director: Wes Anderson.
What’s so great about Wes Anderson? Let’s consider the facts.
He has, to date, directed nine feature films; from Bottle Rocket in 1996 to the forthcoming Isle of Dogs (released this April).
It’s not the most prolific output - he’s 48-years-old and Alfred Hitchcock had directed 39 films by the time he was the same age.
However, Anderson not only directed them but also wrote all of the scripts and produced all but one of them, and they’re damn good films.
They are all visually arresting, with surprising and unusual characters, plots and narrative styles. They feature a panoply of excellent actors, have thumping good soundtracks and are usually (darkly) funny.
I’m going to pick out my personal highlights from the back catalogue in an attempt to convey their brilliance.
Let’s start with The Royal Tenenbaums (2001); a comedy drama about a dysfunctional family of grown-up child prodigy siblings (Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller) with parents played by Anjelica Huston and Gene Hackman.
The set design of the Tenenbaum house is intricate, the story and characters are absurd and bizarre as well as ironically funny.
The soundtrack is littered with rock songs from the 1970s to the 1990s including some by the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), featured Bill Murray as the titular Steve Zissou – a character that pays homage to real life underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau.
The large supporting cast is second-to-none (Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor), the story a bit bonkers, the visual style a colourful riot (yellow submarine anyone?).
The soundtrack is vibrant and this time filled with Brazilian musician Seu Jorge’s Portuguese acoustic renditions of David Bowie classics.
Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) was a stop-motion animation adaptation of Roald Dahl’s story of the same name.
This was the film that I watched at the cinema on my first ever date with my (now) husband and has a lot to answer for (in a good way).
It takes Dahl’s story and reframes it with an American indie-cinema lens with George Clooney voicing Mr Fox and Meryl Streep as Mrs Fox.
The farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean are suitably repulsive and the woodland animals’ struggle is darkly humorous – more for older children and adults than really little ones.
With, Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Anderson returned to live-action with an (Oscar-winning) original screenplay in a coming-of-age story about young runaways on an island in the 1960s.
The film is imbued with a hazy, nostalgic feel that recalls the youthful exuberance of the long summers of childhood.
The quality of the cast of supporting actors, once more is astonishing (Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton) and the set pieces are very entertaining - including a visually arresting performance of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde.
This brings us (almost) up to date with perhaps Anderson’s most celebrated film thus far, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).
This, for me, is peak Anderson.
The setting is a sumptuous hotel in the mountains and the story spans many decades, going back and forth in time from when the hotel was in its glory days in the 1930s to times of disrepair and a sparse eastern bloc-style makeover in the 1960s.
The story is an enjoyable romp involving a riotous concierge played by Ralph Fiennes, his protégé a young lobby boy named Zero, an ancient heiress (Tilda Swinton with the best hair, makeup and costume I’ve ever seen on-screen) and a painting of “Boy with Apple”.
I may not have persuaded you here, but I would urge you, if you haven’t yet experienced the weirdly wonderful world of quirky auteur Wes Anderson, treat yourself to a viewing this Valentine’s Day and make up your own mind.
• The We ♥ Wes Anderson season continues at Norwich Cinema City with Rushmore on February 12; The Royal Tenenbaums on February 19; The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou on February 26; The Darjeeling Limited on March 5; Fantastic Mr Fox on March 12; Moonrise Kingdom on March 19; and The Grand Budapest Hotel on March 26. Full details at We ♥ Wes Anderson
• Isle of Dogs is released on April 20