You might have heard about director Wes Anderson two years ago, at the Oscars, when his movie – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – was nominated for Best Picture, Costume Design and Make-up & Hairstyling. It lost the first one, but won the other two – we are here to see why.
Wes Anderson majored in Philosophy at the University of Texas, highly interested in storytelling and playwriting. His theatrical outputs had been acclaimed since college and he had never thought about movie making until he met Owen Wilson – who became a writing partner or cast member in almost every film Anderson made ever since. His first, Bottle Rocket – named by Scorsese one of the best movies of the ’90s – was a hard-to-label mix of comedy, romance and crime, which came out as a short film, due to funds shortages, but also gave the tone for all his further productions.
In 2007, Anderson wanted to write something with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, so they boarded on a train in India “to do the movie, trying to act it out. We were trying to be the movie before it existed.” This mix of reality and fiction turned him into a character himself, always testing the action on his own life. The result was The Darjeeling Limited, starring Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and although the criticism was not necessarily positive, the movie disclosed, or better said confirmed, Anderson’s most interesting peculiarity – the taste for symmetry.
“I have a way of filming things and staging them and designing sets. There were times when I thought I should change my approach, but in fact, this is what I like to do. It’s sort of like my handwriting as a movie director. And somewhere along the way, I think I’ve made the decision: I’m going to write in my own handwriting. That’s just sort of my way.” – Wes Anderson
If Moonrise Kingdom (2012) deals with emotions and building characters, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), his chef-d’oeuvre until now, is this whimsical 1h40m crazy carrousel of pastel colours, emotional dialogues, altered history, love stories and crime. Both of them are touched by the same symmetrical spell, which recalls the works of some other formalist directors, such as Stanley Kubrick. The perfection of these shots is what makes Anderson’s work so beautiful, in my view, and a delight for any visual obsessed person out there.
Symmetry in Wes Anderson’s movies by Kogonada:
Traditionally, directors are advised against symmetry in school, so the movie should not seem all too orchestrated. The camera may always be this invisible man walking in the middle of the action and the spectator becomes the witness who has to remain anonymous. However, Wes Anderson’s background in theatre is the very reason he is not afraid of symmetry and – I might say – factitious action. These features, coupled with an amazing cast, perfect costumes, all the right decors (both interior and exterior), oh, the soundtracks and meticulous storytelling, have gained him a place in the top of the most interesting directors of our times.
His next movie – Isle of Dogs – will be a return to animation and will revolve around a young boy in Japan who embarks on an existential odyssey while searching for his missing dog. The cast includes Bill Murray (again), Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton (again) and Yoko Ono, among others. It will be released early next year.