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

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