Total Recall

Total Recall: The Life Cinematic with Wes Anderson

A look at the influences of the postmodern filmmaker.

by | October 24, 2007 | Comments

Though no longer the critical darling,
Wes Anderson still
knows what it takes to draw in the hipsters: wild set design, a killer soundtrack, a
Wilson brother or two, and an epic story of familial discordance. Anderson’s
latest wears all these elements on its sleeve. Critics have been lukewarm on
The
Darjeeling Limited
(65 percent on the Tomatometer), but the film’s been doing
boffo box office in limited release and looks to continue drawing crowds when it
opens wide this Friday.

Featuring beautiful losers, sharply-selected British
Invasion tunes, and eye-grabbing psychedelic visuals, Anderson’s films have
gained a fervent cult following. But Anderson doesn’t create in a vacuum; like
Quentin Tarantino, he’s a skilled pastiche artist, filtering a wide variety of
cinematic reverences to fit his own quirky, melancholy sensibilities. Though
some have criticized Anderson for thematically repeating himself, even his
lesser movies contain a bounty of visual riches, often cleverly copied from a
wide range of other films.

For Darjeeling, Anderson draws upon the work of one
of cinemas unquestioned masters,
Satyajit Ray. The great Indian director’s films
take a humanistic approach to the social changes he saw; Ray made movies that
reflected the conflict between tradition and modernity, but never forgot to
filter such messages through compelling characters and family units. All of Ray’s
movies are worth watching, but his undisputed masterwork is
The Apu
Trilogy
, a profoundly beautiful film cycle that follows its titular
character from childhood (Pather Panchali, 97 percent) to adolescence (Aparajito,
93 percent) to adulthood (The World of Apu, 100 percent). (If you’ve ever
wondered where the Kwik-E-Mart proprietor on
The Simpsons
got his name,
look no further.)

In the first two films, Apu and his family struggle with
rural poverty during a period of profound change in India; in the third, Apu is
fully grown, and adjusting to life as an adult. During Pather Panchali’s
premiere at Cannes, the usually blameless
Francois Truffaut walked out,
declaring that "nobody wants to see a film about Indian peasants." Dear reader,
please dont make the same mistake; the Apu movies are a bit slow, and not
exactly loaded with incident, but they are some of the most beautiful, moving,
and powerful tales ever captured on celluloid. "The great, sad, gentle sweep of The
Apu Trilogy
remains in the mind of the moviegoer as a promise of what film
can be," wrote Roger Ebert. Ray was a remarkably multifaceted talent; in addition
to directing films, he was also a skilled author, graphic designer, and musician
(Ray’s compositions comprise much of Darjeeling’s soundtrack).

Anderson name-checks movies from all over, but if only one
could be considered the cinematic forebear to
Rushmore
(86
percent), no doubt it’d be 1971’s
Harold and Maude
(86 percent). Bud Cort stars as Harold, a 20-year-old whose strange
interests (faking his death, anonymously attending funerals) overlap into his
taste in women (the septuagenarian Maude, played by
Ruth Gordon). The soundtrack
was provided by Cat Stevens, whose music Anderson would also use later to great
effect in Rushmore. And Harold and Maude‘s tone of ironic detachment and
panoramic shots would become Anderson staples.

Many reviewers despised the movie when it came out (Ebert
says "[death] can be as funny as most things in life, I suppose, but not the way
Harold and Maude go about it"), but it’s swelled in popularity since. While
Anderson’s films uses anachronistic music to recall times long past and
differentiate itself from contemporary cinema, Harold and Maude was a direct
product of its era. Yet, the film doesn’t age; it’s a sweet cinematic time
capsule that becomes more poignant with each passing year.

If you gave
Jacques Cousteau $50 million and an enormous
Italian studio to work in, no doubt you’d get
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
(52 percent).
Anderson modeled Zissou, played by
Bill Murray, after the legendary
oceanographer, right down to his blue suit and red beanie.  And the nature
documentaries Zissou shoots are virtual recreations of episodes from
The
Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau
. Airing from 1966 to 1976, the television
show chronicled Cousteau and his loyal crew as they traveled the globe,
discovering life above and beneath its ocean waves. The show was made all the
better with Cousteau’s deadpan narration accompanying some of the most gorgeous oceanic
images and creatures captured on cheap cameras.

When a critic in The Life Aquatic accuses Steve Zissou’s
documentaries as heightened and artificial, the implication runs deep. It’s a
criticism frequently lobbed at Anderson, but in Life Aquatic the director seems to
argue life is sometimes as strange as fiction. Steve Zissou’s life really
was as extraordinary as depicted in his documentaries. And by the same token, so was Cousteau’s.

Obviously, Anderson’s influences don’t stop there. In
Louis Malle‘s
The Fire Within
(100 percent), a friend of the suicidal hero
reminisces on his exploits, which include racing go-karts through the streets of
Paris — an echo of Gene Hackman’s extracurricular activities in The Royal Tenenbaums. Powell and
Pressberger‘s
The Red Shoes

(100 percent), like
The Royal
Tenenbaums
, begins with the opening of a book. In
The Graduate
(88
percent),
Benjamin is told to go into industrials; in Rushmore that’s Bill Murray’s
line. Anderson has drawn upon many disparate films to add spice to his
fantastical, quasi-real cinematic worlds.

Tag Cloud

HBO superman spain Television Critics Association breaking bad Crackle spanish language Writers Guild of America GIFs deadpool best TCA Awards Stephen King HBO Max zero dark thirty suspense debate BBC pirates of the caribbean adenture blockbusters Character Guide a nightmare on elm street Television Academy Nat Geo Marvel Television Sundance Comic-Con@Home 2021 witnail Song of Ice and Fire comic biopic Ellie Kemper indiana jones casting Christmas Marvel hidden camera Sci-Fi critics documentaries Box Office leaderboard free movies Syfy godzilla sag awards docudrama Image Comics Comic Book Classic Film The Purge superhero Prime Video APB Hulu 007 supernatural WarnerMedia cancelled DirecTV crossover south america FXX mcc Spectrum Originals cartoon BBC America ratings Martial Arts rotten movies we love TV comic book movies singing competition The Witch political drama TCA Winter 2020 directors satire Superheroes Super Bowl 93rd Oscars blockbuster Toys canceled 71st Emmy Awards Quiz CNN National Geographic live event Mary Tyler Moore feel good biography Spike travel Musicals CW Seed science fiction king kong Vudu new york Food Network Epix critic resources SDCC Elton John spider-man Lucasfilm Apple TV+ Nickelodeon kaiju Polls and Games emmy awards A24 Year in Review Binge Guide reboot universal monsters zombies TNT cooking true crime Creative Arts Emmys comics blaxploitation children's TV television TV Land GoT Bravo 1990s classics TruTV Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Exclusive Video Baby Yoda Cartoon Network streaming movies Extras fast and furious TV renewals TLC social media dceu PBS 24 frames zombie Logo CMT worst quibi Certified Fresh teaser 73rd Emmy Awards GLAAD Comics on TV Opinion USA revenge Awards scorecard thriller FOX Comedy Calendar miniseries remakes Pirates harry potter Photos facebook movie werewolf Sony Pictures adventure aapi Fox News rt labs green book documentary hispanic Hear Us Out Film NBA Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt latino tv talk royal family concert olympics Trophy Talk Apple TV Plus President Rom-Com MSNBC DC Comics slasher Western Music Apple 20th Century Fox telelvision kong Chernobyl TBS cancelled TV series 21st Century Fox trophy Tomatazos comedies dc 2017 Comedy Central History Schedule dreamworks films American Society of Cinematographers women Winter TV scene in color Discovery Channel See It Skip It USA Network HFPA japan Hallmark Christmas movies parents 2018 Rock Red Carpet Biopics psycho venice Walt Disney Pictures technology Acorn TV french rt labs critics edition 2015 renewed TV shows OneApp prank Sundance TV Amazon Prime Video Instagram Live asian-american Black Mirror AMC TIFF genre toronto PlayStation BAFTA obituary war kids posters action-comedy 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards SXSW crime drama BET Awards stop motion MCU Superheroe Netflix Christmas movies Disney+ Disney Plus Star Trek king arthur versus First Look TCM monster movies Paramount criterion 2020 golden globe awards RT21 Rocketman VH1 Hollywood Foreign Press Association mutant YA Pet Sematary First Reviews comic books Reality Competition christmas movies ID lord of the rings heist movie japanese Cannes RT History IFC Films Lifetime Christmas movies 79th Golden Globes Awards Heroines theme song PaleyFest Pride Month award winner sequel cinemax Infographic jamie lee curtis FX on Hulu hispanic heritage month twilight Arrowverse football 45 ghosts Video Games TV One MTV Summer Kids & Family Countdown rt archives spinoff ABC Family BET screen actors guild richard e. Grant Avengers Mindy Kaling Best and Worst all-time serial killer TCA 2017 Women's History Month streaming Masterpiece YouTube Premium comiccon Spring TV sequels ITV historical drama vampires scary movies 72 Emmy Awards 90s DC streaming service international dexter dramedy Holidays ESPN nfl Fantasy wonder woman transformers Fox Searchlight festival rotten scary finale Amazon Prime australia boxoffice DC Universe Shudder Columbia Pictures Tags: Comedy The Walt Disney Company Peacock news Awards Tour cancelled television IFC Black History Month Universal Pictures Hallmark The Walking Dead Showtime El Rey Country mission: impossible Valentine's Day space Amazon LGBT mob 2019 cops E! CBS batman movies elevated horror slashers Starz New York Comic Con screenings anthology young adult unscripted Anna Paquin indie nbcuniversal natural history toy story Podcast OWN 4/20 The Academy james bond E3 discovery Horror AMC Plus Wes Anderson hollywood dark Interview Election diversity Set visit Mary poppins sitcom binge Pop TV robots HBO Go Animation psychological thriller Sundance Now book spy thriller worst movies popular Oscars Ghostbusters period drama romance talk show ABC boxing Universal Thanksgiving stoner child's play Captain marvel Endgame Alien animated Sneak Peek dragons cars Tubi Film Festival politics Disney Plus Fall TV Marathons Emmy Nominations Paramount Network art house composers black comedy hist 2016 Holiday A&E high school adaptation Trailer Adult Swim halloween Mystery romantic comedy new star wars movies Funimation die hard cancelled TV shows game show Reality Neflix YouTube cults Rocky WGN doctor who TCA franchise 2021 stand-up comedy comic book movie video on demand Warner Bros. strong female leads nature Premiere Dates saw Esquire ABC Signature medical drama crime joker Broadway spider-verse TV movies name the review Emmys archives basketball Shondaland reviews Academy Awards crime thriller mockumentary DGA trailers halloween tv know your critic Musical Netflix YouTube Red what to watch Star Wars Pixar rom-coms CBS All Access Grammys foreign gangster Turner Classic Movies legend laika Trivia police drama NBC Mudbound target Ovation Disney Tarantino docuseries video game of thrones Amazon Studios marvel comics Tokyo Olympics sports chucky VICE SundanceTV BBC One razzies Family canceled TV shows jurassic park sopranos disaster NYCC new zealand Travel Channel Fargo italian Brie Larson San Diego Comic-Con golden globes X-Men Britbox Mary Poppins Returns live action Paramount Plus Pop Legendary Cosplay Drama marvel cinematic universe black Freeform 99% The Arrangement Turner fresh Lionsgate based on movie Lifetime Tumblr Disney Channel Dark Horse Comics Nominations Winners spanish book adaptation series Marvel Studios vs. justice league festivals Watching Series dogs VOD aliens FX IMDb TV Teen anime Pacific Islander The CW Disney streaming service cats independent Crunchyroll Action ViacomCBS LGBTQ