Re-appreciating Wes Anderson

I have been taking note of early reviews for Moonrise Kingdom because until it opened at Cannes, I had not known that Wes Anderson had a new film coming out. Elbert Ventura’s Reverse Shot review makes a couple of points about Anderson that resonate with me.

Just the release of the Moonrise Kingdom trailer set off impassioned reactions from both sides. In the context of such contentiousness, the movie itself almost feels like a rejoinder to critics—an artist doubling down on the very thing that drives the haters batty. But in the clear light of day, Moonrise Kingdom reveals something else: an artist who could care less about what we think—and who couldn’t do anything about it even if he did.

It is, particularly, the “couldn’t do anything about it even if he did”, that struck me as a new way of seeing Anderson and his body of work. I certainly am not a “hater”, but I had gone from unreservedly looking forward to his films to hoping that maybe he would show me something different, at least in a significant way. I think that The Darjeeling Limited (2007) is a more “mature”, for lack of a better word, version of what Anderson does, and thought, and still think, that is worth acknowledging.

Ventura comes back to this point at the conclusion of the review:

Moonrise Kingdom is the work of an artist who either is oblivious or doesn’t care about his polarizing status. The demand, from even some supporters, was to grow up. Instead, he followed up a stop-motion animation film—the terrific Fantastic Mr. Fox—with a deeply felt tribute to adolescence. (Little did we know that the less successful Life Aquatic and Darjeeling were his stabs at growing up.) Moonrise Kingdom is familiar, there is no question, but Anderson comes by his repetitions honestly—he might not know any other way to make movies. But there is no calculation here; style has not calcified into shtick. This is who he is, and who he’s always been.

As already confessed, I am, or was, in the “grow up” camp, but was also entirely charmed by Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), so much so that I had not given a thought to Anderson returning to any other kind of film until now. Ventura’s final lines, defending Anderson’s work as the reflection of a sincere and deeply rooted aesthetic and set of themes, has refreshed my perspective, and I am looking forward to Moonrise Kingdom in a way that I would not be but for this review.

Read Ventura’s full review:

Blu-ray review: LA JETEE/SANS SOLEIL

My review of the Criterion Blu-ray edition of La Jetee/Sans Soleil is up at PopMatters. In addition to addressing the films and the disc, I also offer pointers to further reading and criticism on Chris Marker.

A case can be made for going into La Jetée and, especially, Sans Soleil, “cold”; that is with almost no idea of what one is about to watch. Of course, if you have been reading this, that option is foreclosed. In either case, these are films designed to provoke the viewer into thinking about their subjects and themes and to asking questions about what they have watched—What do the images, and their juxtaposition, mean? Who are we listening to when we listen to the narrators?—and here is where many viewers will want to engage in debate and conversation and to seek more explication than a conventional review can provide.

Read the review

DVD review at PM

Yesterday, my review of the DVD for 3 Backyards, Eric Mendelsohn’s (Judy Berlin) latest film, posted at PopMatters:

As much as I can admire what makes 3 Backyards different from more conventional suburban dramas, I’m also left with the feeling that there may be less to the film than the sum of its parts. There is an effective sense of simultaneity, of lives being led here and now, but the larger whole, the interconnections implied by the metaphoric mapping of the characters and images of a greater nature, never cohere in a meaningful way.

Read the full review.

New Blu-ray review

I have a review of the Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) Blu-ray at PopMatters:

In digital high definition, the picture reveals details, particularly in the weathered, ruddy, often grimy faces of the actors, that have likely not been seen with this kind of clarity before. This in no way detracts from the viewing of the film, if anything it highlights the care and craft that went into the production, but Once Upon a Time in the West is, literally and figuratively, a movie about the dirt under the fingernails of its characters, and how everyone has some of that dirt, no matter how they might appear on the outside or to those in society at large. Somehow that deliberate moral ambiguity, that greyness and imperfection, seems more at home in an analog context than in a digital one.

Read the review. (As an additional point of interest, I adapt Nicholas Rombes’ 10/40/70 experiment for the review. Details in the full article).

Blu Ray review at PM

I have a review of the Blu Ray for The Hustler (1961) up at PopMatters:

As much as The Hustler is a “man’s film”, the audience has Piper Laurie’s Sarah Packard from which to see the dark underside of the gaming and gambling subculture inhabited by the male characters. Introduced to viewers and to Eddie as a loner and a drinker, Sarah desperately wants to be loved, telling Eddie at one point that she needs those words from him, “… and if you ever say them, I’ll never let you take them back”. By implication, Eddie does not utter, “I love you”, to Sarah until after she kills herself in Bert’s hotel bathroom, an act she takes after scrawling, “Perverted”, “Twisted”, and “Crippled” on the mirror in lipstick.

Read the review