A personal filmmaker whose “real-life” characters have elevated his films beyond the typical mumblecore fair.
…because he turns eclectic cinematic influences into an art prodigy’s coloring book. The king of the twee aesthetic, Wes Anderson makes films that explore themes of family, loss and change with childlike imagination and humorous nostalgia. Anderson’s vibrant visual style demonstrates his innate understanding of symmetry and color balance. His films reflect an appreciation for a range of sources, from Stanley Kubrick’s meticulous compositions and Martin Scorsese’s tracking shots to Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comics and Norman Rockwell’s Americana paintings.
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Perhaps no other filmmaker since Stanley Kubrick has paid as much attention to the minute details of each shot as Wes Anderson. Whether it’s the careful array of props or the way a costume’s color complements the background, Anderson’s films reveal his fascination with the elements of mise-en-scène (the French term encompassing all the visual aspects of a film’s shots, which Anderson himself almost certainly uses when discussing his work). In addition to cramming his scenes with visually stimulating components, his shot composition also demonstrates an extreme form of symmetry. While almost any film will feature some version of symmetric composition, most likely two people facing each other at eye level within a scene, traditional shots divide the frame into thirds as opposed to halves. Anderson’s distinctive use of symmetry, especially when combined with the color palette and other visual motifs in his films, creates an instantly recognizable effect with the precise balancing of the visual elements. Yet unlike some of his characters and inspirations, Anderson does not simply perform this art for art’s sake. Each film’s unique style enhances the storytelling, divulging information about characters or thematic concerns rather than distracting with planned artifice.
If Anderson’s films display a similarity to Kubrick’s visually obsessive tendencies, that’s no accident. Anderson’s work reflects a cultivated influence of great filmmakers, including Kubrick, Orson Welles, Francois Truffaut, Michelangelo Antonioni and Alfred Hitchcock. Sometimes, Anderson’s allusions to other directors take a subtle form, such as his use of the wide angle lens in the spirit of Welles to create a theatrical storybook look. In other instances, Anderson shows a playful self-awareness when paying homage to his inspirations, such as the squeaking shoe scene from "The Grand Budapest Hotel," a tongue-in-cheek recreation of a sequence from Hitchcock’s "Torn Curtain." Yet Anderson does not limit himself to the cinema for ideas. His films include allusions to literature, art, music and popular culture from all different eras. For example, it’s hard to imagine "The Royal Tenenbaums" without J.D. Salinger’s stories about the talented but troubled Glass family; Anderson has also acknowledged drawing heavily on Stefan Zweig’s writings and character for "The Grand Budapest Hotel." He has even ventured into more eclectic areas of popular works, like the oceanographic programs of Jacques Cousteau and the work of Charles Schulz. This unique combination of references to classic cinema and the brows high and low of culture provide Anderson with one of the more unique voices in film today.
Considering the care he puts into designing his shots, it’s probably no surprise that Anderson also exhibits a wide variety of shot selections in his films. The centered shot is important in order to create symmetry, but other types of shots also play a significant role in his cinematic style. For instance, he often employs overhead shots when trying to create the storybook effect demonstrated in many of his films. Tracking shots interestingly feature into Anderson’s work. Although a moving camera feels at odds with his tendency towards painterly composition, Anderson uses tracking shots to change the energy within scenes. Unlike many filmmakers who show a preoccupation with a visual look, Anderson actually allows his stories to dictate the mood and feeling. His films also veer from comedy to tragedy and back again, which means his varied use of different shots address the emotional register as needed. Such a diverse range of cinematographic techniques requires not only a firm grasp on the logistics of the medium, but also time and patience. With his execution of such complex visuals in the service of offbeat stories, it’s perhaps understandable why Anderson has only made eight features in his twenty-year plus career.
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Script / Screenplay
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