I’ve gone through a couple of phases with Wes Anderson films, from “uniquely brilliant” to “superficial, gimmicky and shallow”. When I first watched The Royal Tenenbaums, I had it in the first category. The soundtrack! The cast! The humour! But a recent viewing forced a more negative reassessment. All that quirkiness just seemed to be a device for its own sake, a sort of self-indulgent juvenility.
Yet in writing that sentence I seem excessively harsh, even to myself, for if there is anything to be said for Anderson, it’s that he has a very distinctive aesthetic which offers its own escapism. Timeless, placeless environments peopled with odd characters and accompanied by a soundtrack pulled from musical obscurity, he creates a unique “Andersonville”. Many directors struggle to put their stamp on cinema but at least he can’t be accused of that. So what if he indulges esoteric interests and pointless affectations? At least there is life and colour to his work. Rushmore although one of his earlier films, more than stands up to repeated viewings and I still love it as much now as I did when I first watched it over a decade ago (Luke Wilson: “These are O.R scrubs.” Jason Schwartzman: “Oh, are they?”).
Which is why I’m excited about the upcoming Moonrise Kingdom which opened the Cannes film festival last night and is reviewed here. The mood music from critics is mainly positive and it’s been too long since I saw Anderson on the big screen (even then The Darjeeling Limited was patchy) so I’m prepared to go in with more than just an open mind; some genuine expectation is building. Let’s hope he delivers. I’ll post a review when I catch it next week…