I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you either have an opinion on the films of Wes Anderson, or you’re considering seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel and do not yet have an opinion on the films of Wes Anderson. Lucky for you, I have plenty to say, whichever one of those people you might be.
I wanted to write a sort of ‘beginners guide’ for those who need it, but couldn’t do that without trying to rank my favourites. And I couldn’t do THAT without thinking about my favourite quotes, because, as my brother so brilliantly put over dinner last weekend, “everything is from something with you, isn’t it?”.
I’ve used some quotes as subtitles, by the way, because I am both clever AND efficient. Consider this a love letter. Not to everything the ankle-skimming corduroy-clad genius has ever done, but just to my favourite bits of his work. And the bits I think you should consider.
I’m going to split this up in to a few sections. In true Wesbian style, let’s just imagine those sections are chapters, introduced with a title card in the font Futura (which you can learn about in this great post by my other half).
It might also be useful for you to imagine that you are free from the constraints of reality, such as limited wealth, social standing, or being subjected to era-appropriate music.
“OK – let’s check the itinerary”
This selection should give you a good overview of a few common recurring themes and motifs, which are all apparent in Grand Budapest too – for example;
- Complex family units
- Self obsession
- Bill Murray (*cue laughter at excellent pun, expertly set up)
This starter kit will gently introduce you to the ingredients of a typical Wes Anderson film. (Or make you hate predictable, over-stylised easily-identified Polaroid-tinted retro-quirkiness – just proving that I DO understand he is not everyone’s cup of tea, there). This foundation might help you appreciate TGBH a little better, but is of course not essential to your enjoyment of it. I thought Grand Budapest Hotel contained a lot more laughs than his earlier films, which is a really fun progression to spot. It’s nice to spot development in a film-maker and story-teller. However, knowing that Moonrise Kingdom won’t make you laugh out loud doesn’t detract from the Budapest-based LOLs induced by Ralph Fiennes’ inability to recite a poem without interruption, for example.
“We haven’t located us yet”
(or “A Spotter’s Guide)
As well as the common themes picked out above, I thought it might be helpful for me to make a little crib sheet. If you were hosting or watching some sort of marathon viewing session, or ‘Wes Fest’, you could almost certainly base some sort of bingo game on this. This is by no means extensive – these are just my favourite visual Wesisms, and the ones which help me prove various points in a slightly comedic fashion:
“Thanks. Thanks a lot for not picking me”
(Or “My personal top 5 Wes Anderson films”.)
This hasn’t taken me too long to decide. Mainly down to being stubborn. Jason Schwartzman is a major viewing requirement for me, and I’ve written about my love for The Darjeeling Limited elsewhere. However:
1 – The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Because of trains, and jewel-tones, and building a train with moving walls especially to make a film on, and the simple idea of unraveling until you go off the rails.
2 – Rushmore (1998)
Because of its many, many relationships, and young Schwartzman, and for feeling comfortingly autumnal.
3 – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
For being funny, darling. For the beginnings of war being portrayed so sensitively through some sort of Wesmatron filter. For quick cameos and recurring imagery and the briefest scenes designed to look like beautiful paintings, and for creating layers of history.
4 – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
For containing a beautiful cocktail of the most typical WA ingredients – families, wealth, misery, romantic struggle, self-obsession, rivalry, over-the-top residential interiors – the works.
5 – Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Adventure, costumes, Francois Hardy, The Great Outdoors, and Jason Shwartzman in shorts. Shortzman?
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) – I nod off every time I watch this. Sorry. It gets an honourable mention for little red hats, which would make it a great contender for my little chart above, and also for aptly providing the quote I used for the title of this chapter.
Bottle Rocket (1996) – I do love this, but it has just never sucked me in visually and artistically like the others. No groove yet. HOWEVER it is nicely summarised by another of my favourite things – The Bluetones – in their lovely, underrated un-album’d ‘The Bluetones Big Score‘. You could just listen to that song instead of watching it. Although then you’d miss out on Owen Wilson’s haircut, I guess.
So there you go. Some thoughts on the films of Wes Anderson.
And yes, I did ignore Fantastic Mr Fox. Partly because, well, it’s not his story, but mainly because I can never get that stupid Boggis, Bunce & Bean song out of my head whenever I think of it. And I have left loads out because this is only intended as a sort of vague outline, really.
Oh – and you should probably check out Kanye Wes Anderson too, because it is great.