hmv.com's Anatomy Of A Director: Wes Anderson
In this monthly feature, we dig deep down into the back catalogue of a top director or actor and chart their rise, from their raw beginnings through to their current project. This month it's Wes Anderson..
Raw Beginnings: Bottle Rocket
It’s fair to say that Anderson didn’t exactly hit the ground running with his first feature. Released in 1996, this cost over $7 million to make, but ended up taking less than $500,000 at the box office. It did, however, get a great critical reception and certainly earned Anderson the right to have a second chance.
As a film, it’s not perfect, a little shonky, but it was that whit, whimsy and magical tone that Anderson would make his own with later releases. The story is quite basic, but very entertaining, three blundering friends, one of whom has just been released from a mental hospital, decide to plan a robbery, a robbery that unravels rather spectacularly…
Big Break: Rushmore
After the commercial failure of Bottle Rocket, Anderson returned with Rushmore, a film that is neigh on perfect. Put out in 1998, this is the perfect distillation of Anderson’s ability to make a script funny, poetic and whimsical, yet with the emotional bite of a maudlin Great White Shark.
The film (which Anderson co-wrote with Owen Wilson) tells the story of Max Fisher (played perfectly by Jason Schwartzman), an eccentric teenager at a private school who has made himself king of extracurricular activities (he’s even a member of the beekeeping society…), but is struggling with his studies. Suddenly, his life is turned upside down when he begins to form a friendship with Herman Blume (Bill Murray), an embittered, cynical industrialist, and Miss Cross, an English teacher who has just joined the school.
It’s sweet, charming and very very affecting, it never dates, no many how many watches you give it. It’s also immensely quotable, Fall Out Boy, Brand New and Every Time I Die are among the bands to have named songs after lines from the film.
His Finest Hour: The Royal Tenenbaums
There are three candidates for this slot, the aforementioned Rushmore, the beautifully poetic The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, but The Royal Tenenbaums just shades it. Released in 2001, this earned Anderson and Wilson an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and is still an absolute hoot.
The plot goes a bit like this: Each of the Tenenbaum children was once a child prodigy, one a tennis player, one a playwright and the other a maths genius, but each is now in a bit of a slump. Still hurting from their father’s decision to walk out on them in their adolescence, they are forced to reunite with him after he informs them he is terminally ill. Needless to say, things don’t exactly go smoothly…
Blackly comic and superbly witty, this boasts a cast list that includes the likes of Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Danny Glover, and, in one of his finest turns, Bill Murray.
Anderson’s career is a glittering one, but this is just about the shiniest jewel in the collection.
Bump In The Road: The Darjeeling Limited
This isn’t much of a bum note, but it’s not in the same league as the rest of Anderson’s work. This is a three hander starring Schwartzman, Wilson and Adrian Brody and follows three brothers who take a journey across India together, exactly a year after their father’s funeral. It’s talky, it’s slow and it’s still quite moving, but it doesn’t have the same zip and spark as Anderson’s best work.
Latest Effort: The Grand Budapest Hotel
This came out earlier this year and is Anderson’s first attempt at a caper movie, well a caper movie in his own unique style. With a fantastic cast list that includes the likes of Edward Norton, Raplh Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe and, of course, Owen Wilson, this is the story of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, who, along with his trusted friend Zero, finds himself on the run from some of the most dangerous men in Europe.
This is vintage Anderson, with a crafted, handmade feel to the cinematography, an elegance to the direction and a sense of whimsy running throughout, it sits alongside the best of his work.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday (July 7th).