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Archive for September 28th, 2012

By Bob Clark

Of the scant collection of American indie filmmakers to rise in the mid-to-late 90’s and remain active into the next decade or more, Wes Anderson probably ranks as one of the most influential of cinematic voices, and in a way that in many ways reaches far beyond the realm of mere moviemaking. Since his 1996 debut Bottle Rocket, he’s steadily developed his own particular and immediately identifiable set of creative mannerisms, juggling both the visual aesthetics of the medium and all manner of idiosyncratic narrative and music choices that make his directorial voice both uniquely his and at the same time easily to imitate, if not quite outright copy. Channel surf for a long enough time on American television and you’re bound to find at least half a dozen commercials airing that take their cues from his particular brand of hipster-chic vision– carefully composed shots of bright primaries and long tableaux, unusual characters and situations that comment on their theatricality, and retro song cues just obscure enough to make you feel cool for recognizing them, if only in the broad strokes. Anderson has directed his fair share of these commercials himself, but even beyond his hand you can see advertisers flocking to pattern their campaigns after his distinctive blend of filmmaking, caught somewhere between the French New Wave and Charles Schultz.

In the same way it’s easy to see his influence over the better part of a new generation of filmmakers working a particular kind of indie/studio character pieces straining to make quirky-character pieces just marketable enough for mainstream art-house audiences, but devoid of anything in the way of actual substance– more commercialized than actual commercials themselves, somehow. For all the waves of imitators, however, Anderson’s been able to keep practicing his style in a way that’s genuine, even for the ways in which it’s become all too easy to commodify, and over the years he’s been able to better hone his craft and up his scale in each succeeding project. Depending on how much of that heavily controlled voice you can stand, he may have reached his zenith or passed it on any number of his more recent films– The Royal Tenenbaums is probably where his branded style reached the mainstream to audiences and marketing teams alike, and since then critics have probably complained the least about Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom, where the medium of animation and subsequently the cast of children help cushion the sometimes suffocating artificiality of his diorama-filmmaking. If you wanted to look at his style, though, and try to decode why it is the way it is and where it comes from, you could do a lot worse than watching the sophomore effort of Rushmore again, and not bother to read between the lines.

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