Wes Anderson: Brilliantly Retro-hip - or just Retro-hip?

by Fie

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Wes Anderson on Wikipedia
Moonrise Kingdom


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Our film blogger, Fie, has a thing or two to say about hipster favorite, Wes Anderson.

Wes Anderson is back. His latest film Moonrise Kingdom has hit the cinemas of the world and the viewers are excited. And so are we! Although when it's Wes Anderson, it's always with a touch of ambivalence. A question keeps pressing on: Is this brilliant film making? Or all surface and no real substance? And is it fair to call that brilliant film making?

Wes Anderson is not trying to kid you about the fact that his films are theatrical and obsessed with stylistic perfection. Their stories are modelled around a cast of clichés and caricatures. It's all so constructed you can sense the director there on the sideline orchestrating his cast securely through each minutely planned step.

The setting is retro-mania, true-to-life down to the smallest detail. Wes longs for his childhood in the 1970'es and he recreates it flawlessly. These films are so soaked in a hip nostalgia feel that you tend to forget what the story is all about. What you're left with is the feeling that this film was just about ”this family” or ”this kid” or ”this crazy Jaques Cousteau look-a-like-dude”, and you have a hard time pointing to any larger moral or premise.

'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'

So doesn't Wes Anderson have anything to say with his films? Does he just want to do the time warp and remind you of the books you read as a child and how hip your parents used to dress? Partly so, no doubt. But Wes Anderson has more to offer. It may not be challenging and ground-breaking stuff, but it's an extremely stylish and very elegant balance act with simple narratives that veer between sensitive sincerity and ironic distance.

'Hotel Chevalier' (prologue to 'The Darjeeling Limited')

With an unwavering touch, Wes Anderson applies a naïve yet knowing lightness to the darker and quirkier sides of love, family relations and loss. It's always with a comic twist and a loveable, childish pathos – yet it's cool as can be. In the Wes Anderson universe there are true friendships, strong family ties, love that transcends time and space – although the pain of life is also ever-present. The agenda seems to be that it doesn't have to be complex to be disarming and true.

So are we cold or warm when it comes to Wes? Mostly on the warm side. And after seeing Moonrise Kingdom, it's fair to conclude that it has all of the above-mentioned ambiguity built in. The film is toe-curlingly self-conscious at the outset because of a style-fixation that is almost too hip to handle. But then again... 30 minutes into the film the story somehow gains a momentum of its own. It wins you over, precisely because of its simplicity.

The film resonates quite a few of director's earlier films – not least in the cast, where Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman reappear for the 6th and 5th time respectively. Which by the way promps us to mention another cool feature of Wes Anderson's films: they always feature pearl-strings of Hollywood all-stars, always cast in untraditional roles. It's so refreshing that this in its own right becomes a reason to love Anderson.

He divides opinions. But mixed feelings aside, there's reason to be thrilled because Wes Anderson makes beautiful movies, and once you tune your senses into that ”easy viewing” frequency, his moods and images linger with you long after you leave the theatre. Also, Anderson is an expert in creating cool, brilliant retro-soundtracks that can in a more literal sense linger with you for as long as you want them to.

Clip from 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

Brilliant film making or not – we dig it. And we're eagerly anticipating Anderson's next project ”The Grand Budapest Hotel” set to hit the screens in 2014.