Author Topic: (Wes Anderson) The Substance of Style  (Read 1388 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

modage

  • Admin
  • *****
  • Posts: 10761
  • Respect: +698
    • Floating Heads
(Wes Anderson) The Substance of Style
« on: April 17, 2009, 09:46:34 AM »
0
The Substance of Style, Pt 1
Wes Anderson and his pantheon of heroes (Schulz, Welles, Truffaut)

This is the first in a five-part series of video essays analyzing the key influences on Wes Anderson’s style. Part 2 covers Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, and Mike Nichols. Part 3 covers Hal Ashby. Part 4 covers J.D. Salinger. Part 5 is an annotated version of the prologue to The Royal Tenenbaums.

With just five features in 13 years, Wes Anderson has established himself as the most influential American filmmaker of the post-Baby Boom generation. Supremely confident in his knowledge of film history and technique, he's a classic example of the sort of filmmaker that the Cahiers du cinéma critics labeled an auteur—an artist who imprints his personality and preoccupations on each work so strongly that, whatever the contributions of his collaborators, he deserves to be considered the primary author of the film. This series examines some of Anderson's many cinematic influences and his attempt to meld them into a striking, uniquely personal sensibility.

After the release of his second film, Rushmore, in 1998, it became obvious that Anderson was, love him or hate him, an idiosyncratic filmmaker worth discussing. In the decade-plus since then, dissecting Anderson's influences, and Anderson's influence on others, has become a bit of a parlor sport among cinephiles. Sight and Sound and Film Comment have been particularly rich resources. More recently, the Onion A.V. Club contributed a couple of playful, astute lists. Anderson himself has gotten into the act by paying tribute to his heroes in interviews and magazine articles.

This series will take the process a step further, juxtaposing Anderson's cultural influences against his films onscreen, the better to show how he integrates a staggeringly diverse array of source material into a recognizable, and widely imitated, whole. It will examine some, but certainly not all, of Anderson's evident inspirations. Along the way, it may incidentally illuminate why Anderson-esque movies—from Garden State to Son of Rambow—can seem, no matter what their virtues or pleasures, a weak substitute for the real thing.

Anderson’s scavenger-hunt aesthetic stands him in good company, alongside Quentin Tarantino, David Gordon Green, James Gray, and the other Anderson, P.T. But what makes Wes Anderson distinctive is the sheer range of art that has fed his imagination—not just recent American and foreign films, but films from 30, 50, even 70 years ago, plus newspaper comics, illustrations, and fiction. The spectrum of influence gives his work a diversity of tone that his imitators typically lack. It is a style of substance.

Charles Schulz and Peanuts

When I interviewed Anderson for a 1998 Star-Ledger article about A Charlie Brown Christmas, directed by the late animator Bill Melendez, Anderson cited Melendez as one of three major influences on his work, so we’ll start there. Anderson told me that he and his screenwriting collaborator, Owen Wilson, conceived Rushmore hero Max Fischer as Charlie Brown plus Snoopy. He said that Miss Cross, the teacher Max adores and will draw into a weirdly Freudian love triangle with the industrialist Mr. Blume, is a combination of Charlie Brown’s teacher and his unattainable love object, the little red-haired girl. Anderson and Wilson even made Max a working-class barber’s son, just like Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, and gave Seymour Cassel, the actor playing Bert Fischer, glasses similar to Schulz’s.

But Schulz’s impact manifests itself in deeper, more persistent ways—particularly in Anderson’s characters who, regardless of age, seem, like Schulz’s preternaturally eloquent kids, to be frozen in a dream space between childhood and maturity. Think of how Rushmore’s Blume pauses during a phone conversation to run across a basketball court and slap down a student’s would-be layup; the now-adult children in The Royal Tenenbaums navigating adult emotional minefields within the confines of a childhood home crammed with toys, grade-school art, and nostalgic knickknacks; Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic transforming a submarine into a gigantic clubhouse and rec center; and the brothers of The Darjeeling Limited turning a supposed spiritual voyage through India into a more affluent, adult cousin of a summer camp stint.

Orson Welles

Anderson's career has a Wellesian quality, and not just because they both started young. Welles was as much an impresario as a director; Anderson has inherited Welles's mix of super-artist's chutzpah and showman's swagger. He exercises Wellesian control over every aspect of his movies (right down to the choice of a particular font for all signage, Futura). And he tends to cast the same performers in film after film, a floating repertory strategy Welles perfected with his Mercury Theater Company. (The roll call of actors at the start of The Royal Tenenbaums seems a straightforward lift of the roll call that ends Citizen Kane.)

From Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons through Othello, Mr. Arkadin, Touch of Evil, and Chimes at Midnight, Welles evinced a fascination with the decline of men once thought to be great. Anderson is similarly intrigued. Mr. Blume in Rushmore, the whole Tenenbaum clan, Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic, and the splintered family of The Darjeeling Limited are all wrestling with real or perceived decline. Anderson and Wilson’s script for The Royal Tenenbaums contains many acknowledgments of Welles’s second feature, Ambersons, an adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s novel about a prominent small-town family in decline. There’s a similarly palatial, cone-topped family home, significant action blocked on and around imposing wooden staircases, and a sense of collective anxiety born of the feeling that time has passed a once-important family by and the community knows it. Both movies feature novelistic third-person narration, by Welles in Ambersons and Alec Baldwin in Tenenbaums.

Both directors prefer to use wide-angle lenses that distort screen space and make it seem almost more figurative than literal. Most of all, Anderson, like Welles, is a visually bold, wunderkind director who has an affinity—some might say a weakness—for virtuoso shots, shots so logistically impressive that they momentarily and perhaps purposefully take the spotlight off the movie and shine it on the director. Think of the elevator-style crane shots that rise into the stratosphere of the opera house in Kane—a move that finds its horizontal equal in The Life Aquatic when the camera tracks Steve Zissou across the entire length of his boat, the Belafonte, dollying backward until the captain is a mere speck on the prow.

François Truffaut

Anderson draws much inspiration from French New Wave filmmakers, including Jean-Luc Godard, a clear influence on his cutting, and Louis Malle, whose Murmur of the Heart heavily influenced the tone of all his films. But towering over the rest is François Truffaut, an impresario in the Welles tradition, but a warmer and more earthbound auteur.

There’s a Peanuts connection here too. Truffaut’s autobiographical Antoine Doinel series maps the internal terrain where childhood and maturity meet, clash, and coexist. Anderson pays tribute to Truffaut by quoting shots directly, but reversing their screen direction. Think of the lateral tracking shot through the classroom in The 400 Blows mirrored in the first scene of Rushmore, and from that same Truffaut film, the shot of Antoine in a chain-link cage, an image repeated in the penultimate shot of Bottle Rocket.

There are, of course, other influences beyond those three, and we’ll look at some of them in future installments of this series, starting with Part 2, which focuses on Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, and Mike Nichols.

video here: http://www.movingimagesource.us/articles/the-substance-of-style-pt-1-20090330
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

modage

  • Admin
  • *****
  • Posts: 10761
  • Respect: +698
    • Floating Heads
Re: The Substance of Style
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2009, 09:47:32 AM »
0
The Substance of Style, Pt 2
Wes Anderson and his pantheon of heroes (Scorsese, Lester, Nichols)

This is the second in a five-part series of video essays analyzing the key influences on Wes Anderson’s style. Part 1 covers Bill Melendez, Orson Welles, and François Truffaut. Part 3 covers Hal Ashby. Part 4 covers J.D. Salinger. Part 5 is an annotated version of the prologue to The Royal Tenenbaums.

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s intellectualized sensuality and flamboyant kineticism are inscribed on Wes Anderson’s films. Scorsese has returned his disciple’s admiration, all but anointing Anderson his artistic heir and naming Anderson’s debut, Bottle Rocket, one of the best films of the ’90s. Orson Welles, François Truffaut, and animator Bill Melendez (A Charlie Brown Christmas, et al.) may have taught Anderson how to paint, but Scorsese taught him how to dance. Setting aside for a moment their very similar use of music, there are enough shared visual tells to make Scorsese and Anderson seem like a street-tough dad and his college-bound favorite son.

Exhibit A is their use of slow motion. Slo-mo became fashionable in the 1960s as a way to draw out violent action. But while Scorsese has used it for this purpose, he also deploys it for another reason: to italicize emotion. We can see Anderson drawing directly on Scorsese’s example in film after film. Johnny Boy’s slowed-down arrival at the bar in Mean Streets—walking forward toward the viewer as the camera dollies backward—finds a visual equivalent in Rushmore when hero Max Fischer makes his triumphant exit from a hotel room elevator after terrorizing romantic rival Max Blume with a swarm of bees. Think also of how the memorable slow-motion close-up of Jimmy Conway in GoodFellas smoking at the bar, his eyes lighting up malignantly as he contemplates whacking his cohorts in the Lufthansa heist, is echoed in the penultimate montage of Anderson’s Bottle Rocket in the shot of thief and playboy Mr. Henry puffing on a stogie after robbing Bob Mapplethorpe’s house.

Another shared signature is the God’s-eye-view insert shot, looking down at significant objects from an overhead position roughly parallel to the floor. Scorsese was by no means the first director to look at things from this angle—Alfred Hitchcock often employed the God’s-eye view shot to stunning effect, and it may be that Scorsese’s affinity for the angle comes from a close study of Hitchcock. But Scorsese personalized it by applying it to close-up inserts—often somewhat disruptive inserts placed within an otherwise conventionally edited dialogue scene. Think of the moment in Taxi Driver when Travis Bickle, attempting to charm the campaign worker Betsy, sweeps his hand over her desk to indicate the “all this” that shouldn’t preoccupy her; Scorsese very briefly cuts to an almost-overhead shot of the tabletop, then cuts back to the conversation. There are numerous similar examples throughout Scorsese’s filmography, and Anderson’s own deployment of the overhead insert is strikingly Scorsese-esque, from the composition and lighting to the duration of the shot. Think, for instance, of the overhead shot in Rushmore of Miss Cross grading papers on her desk or the overhead shot of Etheline Tenenbaum’s desk in The Royal Tenenbaums displaying the Sunday Magazine section with a cover story about cowboy novelist Eli Cash.

Also notable is Scorsese’s use of whip pans, often taken from eye level, that split the difference between first person and third. They seem to simulate the perspective of a theoretical, invisible witness to a scene—someone who’s in the room with the characters and can look at whatever is most significant at any given moment. Anderson’s own use of this distinctive whip pan is highly Scorsesean. To give just one example, the whip pan that notes the arrival of Johnny Roast Beef at the post-Lufthansa heist party in GoodFellas is echoed in the “hardest geometry equation in the world” moment at the start of Rushmore, Anderson’s camera darting toward the chalkboard with much the same rhythm as Scorsese’s.

Richard Lester

Richard Lester, the filmmaker who brought the Beatles to the big screen in A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965), is not a major component of Anderson’s style, but what traces there are stand out: buoyant, engaged editing that acts as the soundtrack’s aesthetic dance partner, an appreciation of physical action as a thing of beauty in itself, and an unabashed love of shenanigans. Royal Tenenbaum’s crosstown romp with his grandsons in The Royal Tenenbaums contains what seem like numerous primary or secondary echoes of Lester’s filmmaking, from the Beatles-like shots of the three troublemakers zipping around the streets in go-carts (simultaneously a reference to the white-knuckle el chase in The French Connection, the film that won Hackman his first Oscar) to a shot of the characters rushing down a hallway and leaping into a rec center pool (which has a quality reminiscent of shots in Lester’s 1968 film Petulia).

Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols’s second film, The Graduate, must have hit Anderson like a bullet; bits and pieces of it continue to ricochet throughout Anderson’s filmography, from romantic pairings separated by more than the usual number of years to the droll yet oblivious delivery of dialogue, imported by Nichols from his stage work with Elaine May. No wonder The Onion A.V. Club, in its list of movies without which Anderson could not exist, placed The Graduate at No. 1.

Another debt Anderson owes to Nichols is structural. As adapted by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham from Charles Webb's novel, The Graduate audaciously mixes seemingly incompatible modes, from deadpan comedy of manners (the celebrated “plastics” moment) to dark-night-of-the-soul melodrama (Ben’s revelation to Elaine that he’s sleeping with her mother, the high point of which is an unfocused close-up of Elaine that slowly sharpens again as she absorbs the reality of her predicament) to over-the-top farce (the climactic melee at the church, ending with Ben grabbing a huge cross, swinging it at the wedding party as if warding off vampires, then using it to seal the doors and trap them inside the building).

The Graduate template combines generic structure with nearly unlimited emotional range; as such, it has proved immensely useful and durable. No wonder Anderson returns to it again and again—notably in The Royal Tenenbaums, which segues smoothly from cartoonishly absurdist tall-tale mode to doomed romance (Richie and adopted sister Margot’s platonic affair) to grim family melodrama (Richie’s bloody suicide attempt), and in The Life Aquatic, a Jacques Cousteau fantasia that makes room for the hero’s midlife artistic and personal crises, his vengeful fury over the death of his partner, and the arrival of the son he never knew he had—a son who dies randomly and tragically in a helicopter crash.

Also of note is The Graduate’s highly influential use of music, an aspect that clearly had a profound effect on Anderson’s sensibility. Here we can trace a direct line of influence from Lester through Nichols and on to Anderson. The Graduate’s musically elegant editing, fondness for snap-zooms, and love of bodies in motion is Lester plus one, but Nichols’s use of music represented an evolutionary advance over his predecessor.

Nichols didn’t simply play full-length songs and devise situations and visuals that complemented them (a pre-music-video approach). Nor did he employ music mainly as editorial comment or ironic counterpoint, an approach perfected by his peer Stanley Kubrick throughout the ’60s. Rather, Nichols took a more subjective approach. He gave the movie over to the song, almost as if surrendering to it and letting the music direct the movie. The most striking example of this is the section 40 minutes into The Graduate depicting Ben’s deepening depression as he carries on a secret affair with Mrs. Robinson. Audaciously scored to back-to-back Simon & Garfunkel songs, shorn of all dialogue, and using only sparing sound effects, this section employs very long shots, precise zooms, and canny transitions (utilizing black backgrounds to confuse the viewer) to render time and space irrelevant and make it seem as though Ben’s affair has annihilated whatever admittedly paltry sense of self he had at the beginning of the story. This musical montage and the others in The Graduate are visually and rhythmically unlike anything else in the film and as such are indicative of the film’s journey into Ben’s interior life.

Anderson employs similarly subjective montages throughout his filmography, and in Rushmore, pays Nichols the ultimate compliment in a sequence scored to The Kinks’ “Nothing in This World Can Stop Me Worryin' Bout That Girl.” The song itself has an acoustic guitar-driven dreaminess reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel’s mid-’60s work, but Anderson makes the homage official by setting the significant action at poolside. Mr. Blume’s despair over his wife’s infidelity, capped by a cannonball off a high diving board, echoes Ben’s actions at the end of The Graduate’s two-song montage: the depressed hero plunging into chlorinated water. But what makes a side-by-side comparison even more intriguing is Rushmore’s rack focus from a profile close-up of Blume to his wife sitting on the other side of the pool, brazenly feeding a lover who appears to be significantly younger than herself—perhaps even Ben Braddock’s age. Mr. Blume’s story, then, is The Graduate from the cuckolded Mr. Robinson’s point of view.

video here: http://www.movingimagesource.us/articles/the-substance-of-style-pt-2-20090403
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

modage

  • Admin
  • *****
  • Posts: 10761
  • Respect: +698
    • Floating Heads
Re: The Substance of Style
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2009, 09:48:43 AM »
0
The Substance of Style, Pt 3
Examining the Wes Anderson–Hal Ashby connection

This is the third in a five-part series of video essays analyzing the key influences on Wes Anderson’s style. Part 1 covers Bill Melendez, Orson Welles, and François Truffaut. Part 2 covers Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, and Mike Nichols. Part 4 covers J.D. Salinger. Part 5 is an annotated version of the prologue to The Royal Tenenbaums.

In Wes Anderson’s pantheon of artistic heroes, Hal Ashby holds a special place. The former-editor-turned-director made most of his significant films in a 10-year period bracketed by two political satires, The Landlord (1970) and Being There (1979). In between, Ashby contributed some of the most unabashedly personal American films of an era that produced a disproportionate share of them, including The Last Detail (1973), about cynical sailors escorting a naive young military prisoner to jail; Bound for Glory (1976), a biography of leftist folksinger Woody Guthrie that demonstrated a palpable sense of time and place, and showcased the first-ever onscreen use of the Steadicam; Shampoo (1975), about a womanizing hairdresser screwing his way across Southern California and struggling to open his own place, set against the backdrop of the 1968 presidential election; and Coming Home (1978), a melodrama about a paraplegic antiwar vet, a hardline GI suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the nurse torn between them.

What did Anderson draw from Ashby exactly? At first it’s hard to say. In terms of content, Ashby’s movies are distinguished by a kind of matter-of-fact political engagement that Anderson, with a few conspicuous exceptions, could not care less about. No matter what story Ashby is telling or what era it’s set in, he never sees his characters as purely autonomous individuals; he and his screenwriters are forever aware—and do their best to make us aware—that our personalities, goals, desires, and opinions don’t bloom into existence like orchids. The seeds of humankind are nourished by nations, families, and cultures, and when an individual comes into a new awareness and tries to act or think differently, it’s hard, often nearly impossible.

Think of the sailors in Robert Towne’s screenplay for The Last Detail becoming increasingly annoyed with the nonsensical judgment hanging over their prisoner and contriving ways to treat him like a human being rather than a nuisance to the state. Or the crippled warrior in the Waldo Salt-written war drama Coming Home—a onetime high school football star and clean-scrubbed Boy Scout type—rebelling against the military’s shabby treatment of the men who gave their bodies and lives for America. Even Shampoo, a seemingly lighthearted excursion into cute raunch, notes the changing mores in America circa 1968 and the fact that at that time—as always—the profit motive and pleasure principle trumped any moral code a person professed to have.

Ashby’s films are also about as aware of race and class differences as mainstream entertainment can be without turning into polemics.

In comparison, Anderson’s films are ahistorical fables that are virtually bereft of social consciousness. When he does demonstrate such awareness, the moment stands out—as in The Darjeeling Limited, which is chock full of situations in which the privileged Whitman brothers treat their spiritual journey as just another kind of shopping trip. His characters tend to be white and upper middle class to wealthy. And while there are characters of different races and social strata, they tend to be supporting characters—often clownish ones at that—and the filmmaker pointedly ignores most of the friction that might exist between them and the heroes, as if sending a utopian message that such differences are negligible compared to the fears and longings we all share. Hopeful as that may sound, it’s hard to hear it and not respond with Keith David’s great line from Platoon, “Sheeeit…You gotta be rich in the first place to think like that.”

Ashby’s movies send the same basic message but with many more qualifiers. It’s hard to find common ground in a nation dedicated to buying it up and fencing it off.

Given the fundamental disconnect between Anderson and Ashby, where does the affinity come from? In a Good magazine interview, the director indicated that, while he admired Ashby’s ability to make the personal political, he was most impressed by Ashby’s ability to jump from genre to genre with impunity and to make almost any situation seem perfectly natural.

Ashby did have those knacks and many others—including a genuine affection for underdogs, losers, and eccentrics, a vivid sense of the absurd, an ability to intertwine comedy with tragedy, and most of all a conviction that not just movies but life itself can be musical.

There's nothing inherently wrong with Anderson's selective adoration. But when you look at the totality of what Ashby accomplished—the social and political dimensions that all his films explored, the blunt honesty of their expression—Anderson's work can't help but come up short, just as the work of Anderson's imitators is overshadowed by the genuine article.

video here: http://www.movingimagesource.us/articles/the-substance-of-style-pt-3-20090406
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

modage

  • Admin
  • *****
  • Posts: 10761
  • Respect: +698
    • Floating Heads
Re: The Substance of Style
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2009, 09:49:37 AM »
0
The Substance of Style, Pt 4
Examining the Wes Anderson–J.D. Salinger connection

This is the fourth in a five-part series of video essays analyzing the key influences on Wes Anderson’s style. Part 1 covers Bill Melendez, Orson Welles, and François Truffaut. Part 2 covers Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, and Mike Nichols. Part 3 covers Hal Ashby. Part 5 is an annotated version of the prologue to The Royal Tenenbaums.

One of Wes Anderson’s strongest influences is not cinematic but literary: J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and other touchstones.

The filmmaker’s Salinger jones was apparent before his feature-filmmaking career had even properly begun. When I interviewed L.M. “Kit” Carson about the production of Anderson’s first feature, Bottle Rocket, he told me that when he read the script for the first time, he felt as though he were reading “The Catcher in the Rye as written by Holden Caulfield.” Like Holden, Bottle Rocket’s hero, Anthony, has undergone a period of institutionalization and dotes on his kid sister.

Anderson’s privileged milieus and his naive, gregarious, but often maladjusted characters are Salingeresque. With its prep-school setting and prematurely jaded man-boy hero, Rushmore often plays like The Catcher in the Rye by way of Peanuts, minus the sense—so keenly felt in both Charles Schulz’s and Salinger’s work—that there’s a vast difference between how characters see themselves and how the world sees them. The film’s protagonist, Max Fischer, could be Holden reimagined as a Type A personality. He’s as much a self-aggrandizing lost soul, a tortured adolescent whose abrasiveness seems partly traceable to the death of a beloved family member (Holden’s brother, Max’s mother). But unlike Holden, Max manages to grow up a bit, look beyond himself, and find some measure of peace, and Anderson, unlike Salinger, openly invites us to root for the hero.

The neurotic, depressive, hyperachieving Tenenbaums of The Royal Tenenbaums are reminiscent of Salinger’s Glass family. Anderson and his co-writer, Owen Wilson—who also collaborated with the director on Bottle Rocket and Rushmore—acknowledge the story’s lineage in the film’s very title. The Glasses are a family populated by child geniuses, one of whom, Boo-Boo, gets married and takes a new last name: Tannenbaum. And Richie Tenenbaum’s attempted suicide, which almost single-handedly darkens the film's previously lighthearted tone, recalls the shocking suicide that ends Salinger’s short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”

Beyond lifting certain events and situations, Anderson shows an affinity for Salinger in his tone and style. Like Salinger's fiction, Anderson's films have a crisp directness and bouncy energy that can initially be mistaken for escapist until the artist springs a grim surprise or brings an undercurrent of dissatisfaction or despair to the surface. Anderson's films, like Salinger's stories, are filled with loquacious, combative, often hyperachieving individuals who seem fully formed and secure in their identities but who reveal themselves as deeply damaged—by class anxiety, social expectations, and family dysfunction. They are too smart by half, and both artists let us know that their characters’ intelligence affords no insurance against despair or death.

An unnamable malaise once paralyzed Bottle Rocket’s Anthony, a rich boy who, according to his sister, never worked a day in his life. The raging grief of a motherless boy drove Rushmore’s young Max Fischer to become a control-freak artist-showman. The absurd domestic entanglements of The Royal Tenenbaums are propelled by the family patriarch’s self-concocted, thoroughly phony death sentence, which is obliterated by Richie’s own real, self-willed near-death, which in turn is supplanted by Royal’s actual death. Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic is a middle-aged Max Fischer, desperately trying to defeat death with art: his new film is a record of his attempt to hunt down and destroy the leopard shark that murdered his best friend. On the journey, he encounters Ned Plimpton, a young man who purports to be Steve’s son, accepts him, fathers him, renames him Kingsley Zissou, and then watches him die in a random, senseless helicopter accident. The film intertwines Zissou’s interior journey from rejection of mortality to acceptance of it with a subplot about the pregnancy of Jane Winslett-Richardson, who becomes both the love interest and surrogate mother of the orphaned Kingsley. And of course, the pampered, hyperverbal Whitman brothers of The Darjeeling Limited are haunted by their dad’s funeral, literally carry their dead father’s baggage around with them, and are unnerved throughout the film’s second half by the threat of a man-eating tiger, this film’s equivalent of Aquatic’s jaguar shark. Anderson’s films are light in much the same way as Salinger’s fiction—which is to say, they’re not.

Beyond their compatible tones and themes, though, Salinger’s and Anderson's work display a similar approach to characterization—a kind of ornamental realism that suggests Gustave Flaubert's journalistic romanticism, with its obsessive worrying over the rightness of each word and phrase, only updated and pushed to the brink of caricature, sometimes beyond. The style is rooted in the notion that character can be signified, revealed, perhaps even distilled, through observable details.

Consider Holden Caulfield preening over his hunting cap or Franny fretting over her handkerchief and her gold swizzle stick:

“I don't know why I carry that crazy gold swizzle stick around," she said. "A very corny boy gave it to me when I was a sophomore, for my birthday. He thought it was such a beautiful and inspired gift, and he kept watching my face while I opened the package.”

Or Franny’s boyfriend Lane spotting her at the train station and being delighted that she’s wearing her sheared-raccoon coat:

Franny was among the first of the girls to get off the train, from a car at the far, northern end of the platform. Lane spotted her immediately, and despite whatever it was he was trying to do with his face, his arm that shot up into the air was the whole truth. Franny saw it, and him, and waved extravagantly back. She was wearing a sheared-raccoon coat, and Lane, walking toward her quickly but with a slow face, reasoned to himself, with suppressed excitement, that he was the only one on the platform who really knew Franny's coat. He remembered that once, in a borrowed car, after kissing Franny for a half hour or so, he had kissed her coat lapel, as though it were a perfectly desirable, organic extension of the person herself.

There’s a similarly observant moment in The Royal Tenenbaums in the scene where Richie Tenenbaum watches Margot disembark from a bus. As Margot emerges into daylight, the moment shifts into slow motion, the better to appreciate the vivid details of wardrobe and grooming that delineate the characters’ personalities and histories: Richie with his tennis headband and a pair of sunglasses that look like something Steve McQueen might have worn while yachting; Margot’s stylish short haircut, “Leave me alone” eyeliner, and (yes indeed) fur coat.

Detractors say Anderson’s dense production design (courtesy of regular collaborator David Wasco) overwhelms his stories and characters. This complaint presumes that in real life our grooming and style choices aren’t a kind of uniform—visual shorthand for who we are or who we want others to think we are. This is a key strength of both Anderson and Salinger’s work. Both artists have a knack for what might be called “material synecdoche”—showcasing objects, locations, or articles of clothing that define whole personalities, relationships, or conflicts.

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden reminisces about his brother Allie’s catcher’s mitt, which had snippets of poetry scrawled all over it in green ink. Early in “Zooey” is a description of the title character’s boyfriend in “a Burberry raincoat that apparently had a wool liner buttoned into it,” his “ungloved hands in his coat pockets,” his maroon cashmere muffler “hiked up on his neck, giving him no protection against the cold.” Likewise, Tenenbaums showcases Eli Cash's cowboy hat and Custer haircut and buckskin jacket (the wardrobe equivalent of his “obsolete vernacular” prose style); Henry Sherman’s blue blazer and bow tie (as conservative and controlled as he is); Royal Tenenbaum’s Nixon-era glasses, cap, and brown tweed sport coat (indicators that he’s out of sync with the times); and the Tenenbaum family’s long-dormant game closet (suggesting the innocent hopes that the family, in its despair, has packed away). In both Salinger and Anderson, you really are what you own and what you wear. Yet the conviction seems not despairing, merely observant—playful too.

video here: http://www.movingimagesource.us/articles/the-substance-of-style-pt-4-20090409
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

The Perineum Falcon

  • The Master of Two Worlds
  • *****
  • Posts: 1161
  • Respect: +16
Re: The Substance of Style
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2009, 04:25:37 PM »
0
Ah, you beat me to it! They're really quite wonderful assessments of Anderson's style and influences, and have brought about in me a resurgence of my love of his films (and even an appreciation of Darjeeling).

The 5th was posted as well, which I thought was fun:
http://www.movingimagesource.us/articles/the-substance-of-style-pt-5-20090413

Besides this, Moving Image Source has quickly become one of my favorite sites.
We often went to the cinema, the screen would light up and we would tremble, but also, increasingly often, Madeleine and I were disappointed. The images had dated, they jittered, and Marilyn Monroe had gotten terribly old. We were sad, this wasn't the film we had dreamed of, this wasn't the total film that we all carried around inside us, this film that we would have wanted to make, or, more secretly, no doubt, that we would have wanted to live.

 

DMCA & Copyright | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy