Wes Anderson

Yes, Hotel Chevalier (2007) had Natalie Portman's first nude scene, but it's brilliant for other reasons.

Yes, Hotel Chevalier (2007) had Natalie Portman's first nude scene, but it's brilliant for other reasons.

  • Born:  1969
  • Rank:  90
  • Feature Films:  5
  • Best:  The Royal Tenenbaums
  • Worst:  Bottle Rocket

Films (in rank order)

  1. The Royal Tenenbaums – 2001
  2. The Darjeeling Limited – 2007
  3. Rushmore – 1998
  4. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – 2004
  5. Bottle Rocket – 1996

It says something about your work when you’ve made 5 films and the one I find to be the weakest is released by the Criterion Collection (as have been 2 of the others).  And of course, I think Bottle Rocket is a good film (a *** film that almost gets to ***.5), but given how enjoyable his other films are, it still falls to the bottom of the pack.

I first came across Wes Anderson when Rushmore was released.  Due to low finances at the time, it was the only film I saw in theaters between the end of 98 (it wasn’t released in Portland until February of 99) and Phantom Menace, and I loved it.  I still think the Academy missed the boat on giving an Oscar to Bill Murray for it.

But it was Tenenbaums that sealed the deal for me.  It was almost a weird version of the Glass family stories by J.D. Salinger and the weird timeless version of New York appealed to me.  It helped of course, to have one of the best uses of a song to end the film.

Anderson followed Tenenbaums with Life Aquatic which was even weirder, but worked for me, though not as much as Darjeeling did.  If his strange casual energy and intelligence that shows through so strong in his films (including Hotel Chevalier) and even his American Express commercial, is present in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, he’ll be moving up the list again later this year.

The Darjeeling Limited – #19 film of 2007

I saw Darjeeling at the right time, which was after they had attached Hotel Chevalier to the beginning of the film.  While Veronica accused me of just wanting to see Natalie Portman nude, seeing the short before the actual film helps you understand much better some of the characters in the film and what is going on.

I have never been to India.  Indeed, I’m not sure that the India of Wes Anderson’s film even exists, but it is someplace I would enjoy visiting, someplace I would want to see.  It’s interesting to note the intersection with Slumdog, both in the use of the train, but also in the casting of Irfan Khan, who I already knew as the father in The Namesake (and would later see as the Pakistani policeman in A Mighty Heart), but he also plays (with no lines) the father of the dead boy in this film and the policeman who hears the story in Slumdog.  He seems to bridge various versions of the world, from the factual (Mighty Heart) to the utterly fantastical.

Darjeeling was not a success because it is not a film made for today’s American audience.  It not only doesn’t have much action, or a whole lot of comedy (in spite of the presence of Owen Wilson, whom I can only tolerate in Wes Anderson films, and barely even then), but rather meanders along into its story.  It does have the classic Anderson casting of both Bill Murray and Anjelica Huston, in sideways glances to the world around them, but it is the three brothers and their story that is the focus.  Even Natalie only appears in the actual film as a version of a tiger in a hotel room.  But these brothers felt real to me.  They felt like actual brothers, people who had been raised together and learned to love and hate each other.  And in the end, they make the right choice.  With the right music of course.