A Pop Culture Icon: Wes Anderson

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Wes Anderson has one of the most distinctive and recognisable directing-producing styles in the film industry. What began as low-budget indie films have now cemented Anderson in pop culture history forever.

Wes is known for his use of eye-catching colour and patterns, tracking shots, slow-motion walking, his love of symmetry and immense attention to detail. With his cinematic style being described by fans as ‘pop-up book’ and ‘dollhouse’ like, his films really are a feast for the eyes. And while it is true that Anderson has a distinct style, this doesn’t mean that he’s boring. Each film brings something new and exciting and holds its own place in the Wes Anderson line-up of wonderful weirdness.

Ahead of the release of his latest feature, Isle of Dogs we take a look back at some highlights of Anderson’s career so far, his unique approach and how he keeps his audience coming back again and again.

Bottle Rocket (1996)

Bottle Rocket was Anderson’s debut feature film and is famous for beginning the careers of brothers Luke and Owen Wilson. The crime-comedy follows three men and their attempts at breaking and entering. Although it flopped at the time of release it has gained a cult followed and stands out for its realistic ‘back and forth’ dialogue.

Rushmore (1998) 

This incredibly funny film is about a prep school teen in love with his teacher. Jason Schwartzman’s dry humour epitomises what will come to be known as Anderson’s classic comedic style.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

This is where we begin to see the Wes Anderson style coming to fruition. This story of an estranged family shows Anderson mastering the use of the pastel colour palette and shocking the audience with surprisingly dark and profound moments.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

The Darjeeling Limited is Anderson’s 5th directorial venture and is the story of three brothers on a journey to reconnect, set on a train ride across India. The screen is filled with gorgeous yellows, purples, blues and oranges and one could talk about the symbolism and symmetry for days.

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

Anderson’s first attempt at stop-motion, Fantastic Mr. Fox perfectly embodies the wonder and adventure of Roal Dahl’s classic children’s book. It combines Anderson’s humour with beautiful textured animation.

Watch enough of Anderson’s films and you’ll notice a recurring cast. Bill Murray, for example, has been in every one of Anderson’s films expect Bottle Rocket and Owen Wilson has featured in all but two. From interviews with actors who have starred in Wes’ work, you get the sense that he treats his cast like a family, creating a comfortable space where the actors can really shine. Often, you’ll find that actors give performances that you didn’t know they had in them (Bruce Willis’ bespectacled police captain in Moonrise Kingdom comes to mind; a far cry from his John McClane).

So what is it about Anderson’s films that keeps audiences going back and new viewers enticed every time? I believe that people are intrigued by the eccentricity of it all. It can be confusing watching a Wes Anderson film and not understanding what you’re getting in to. However, if you strip down the aesthetics, Anderson’s films are really just about human experiences. They are stories about bereavement and loss, dysfunctional families and arguments, divorce and reconciliation. Things that nearly all of us can relate to, just placed in these beautiful worlds that Anderson creates. Anderson really is becoming a master at his craft and I for one am extremely excited to see what he does next.

If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson film before, (firstly, what have you been doing?) but secondly, here are some good places to start. Depending on what you’re looking for here are my three suggestions:

  • Classic – The Grand Budapest Hotel is a prime example of what Anderson has come to be known for. It is Anderson in his truest form, gorgeous pastel colour palette and symmetry galore. Ralph Fiennes’ superb acting alongside an all-star supporting cast make it a joy to watch.
  • Subtle – If you’re looking for something more subdued try Rushmore. It is Jason Schwartzman’s film debut with Bill Murray’s brilliant timing making sure every joke lands perfectly.
  • Beautiful – If you want a beautifully crafted, moving film go for The Darjeeling Limited. Potentially my favourite of all Anderson’s work, it combines his classic storytelling style with great music to form a truly heart-warming film.

Isle of Dogs hits UK cinemas on the 30th March.

Georgie Burgess

(Image courtesy of Alamy Stock Photo)