To many cinemaphiles, Wes Anderson is a director like no other. In a world full of sterile blockbusters, unnecessary sequels and unwanted remakes, the films of Wes Anderson offer a safe haven of brilliant weirdness, vivid imagery and original storytelling. Anderson has a filmography to rival the likes of greats such as Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog or the Coen brothers, with stellar titles such as the Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012) delighting both audiences and critics worldwide, and just like Tarantino and the Coens, Anderson has an ever-growing and loyal fanbase who hang on his every word.
Wes Anderson has long been seen as the one of great titans of the indie cinema circuit, a true auteur who really understands the power of cinema, a Kubrick-esque figure who makes every single frame count. The director rose to fame and reached international recognition shortly after the release of his debut movie, Bottle Rocket (1996), which also helped launch the careers of both Luke and Owen Wilson (with Owen being credited as co-writer). Early hits such asthe phenomenal Rushmore and the groundbreaking The Royal Tenenbaums cemented Anderson’s status as a talented director who blended comedy and drama with the absurd and esoteric. As he became a more recognisable figure, his films became noticeably grander. Recent projects such as The Darjeeling Limited (2007), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and particularly, his newest release, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) showcase Anderson’s brilliant eye for the big screen.
There are several visuals motifs, techniques and traits that Anderson employs in his films in order to bring his creative vision to life and many keen cinemagoers have been amazed by Anderson’s clever and subtle use of colour palettes. In The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson utilises colours that are closely associated with autumn (yellows, oranges and browns) reflecting the earthy and organic bearings of the film. Similarly, in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) the colours feel much more vibrant and eclectic (think of Team Zissou’s red caps!), in touch with the tone and feel of the movie.
Perhaps the most brilliant part of any Wes Anderson movie is the focus on practical effects and tricks of the camera over CGI. In the most memorable scene of The Life Aquatic, the infamous Jaguar Shark is revealed to us, second by second it’s beautiful luminescent pattern is shown, then finally, we get to see the beautiful creature in all of its majestic glory. In reality, the shark was a stop-motion puppet courtesy of animation genius, Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), but during the movie, the shark seemed to have a life of its own, obviously it looked fake, but I believed it was alive in Wes Anderson’s cartoon-like world.
In one memorable moment, Zissou faces the shark that killed his dear friend and utters the line “I wonder if it remembers me?” to the melancholic sound of “Starálfur” by Sigur Rós. This particular moment of the film caused many cinemagoers to tear up and that’s the power of a great Wes Anderson film. You invest in the lives of characters that you will only know for a few hours, but you believe in their problems and adjust to their crazy world. Anderson manages to make the fantastic seem normal but never quite takes the magic away.
It’s no secret that the director has a fondness for nostalgia. If The Life Aquatic was a very personal love letter to the work of the underwater filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau, and Moonrise Kingdom was a bittersweet youthful love story set amongst an antiquated Eagle Scout 60’s backdrop. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s most bold and welcome attempt at bringing a lost period in time back to the big screen. He has a strange love for life’s peculiarities and the self-imposed rules we live by.
Anderson appreciates film as an art form, something that sets him apart from his contemporaries. He has a unique way of bringing his kinetic passion for the moving image to the screen. The Grand Budapest Hotel, offers a different aspect ratio (1.33, 1.85, and 2.35:1) for each timeline in the film.
We are very lucky to have a director like Wes Anderson in our lifetime. Anderson’s films fight against the popular image of modern cinema as a greedy, cynical and self-fulfilling creature. He treats his wide-eyed audience with respect that they deserve and he knows exactly how to play them. Anderson somehow manages to blend a childlike sense of wonder with offbeat comedy and just a tad of weirdness, whilst throwing in the serious issues that plague our everyday lives, from the fears of infidelity, to parenthood and even the death of a loved one. After watching one of Anderson’s films, I come away feeling heartbroken but underneath there is a feeling of hope, an uplifting sense of wonder, for all of his credit, Wes Anderson is an original.