At the mere mention of Wes Anderson’s name, a flurry of visual associations immediately come to mind; bright pastel colours, intensive symmetrical compositions and painstaking hand-made art direction. It’s these, plus many more, distinctive visual flairs and original directorial style that make Anderson one of our modern day auteurs. However, the impact of his stories are never compromised by his aesthetic sensibilities and his comedic and heavily influenced features are always tinged with moments of melancholy and entail themes of dysfunction.
Anderson was born in 1969 in Houston, Texas to his mother Texas Ann, a realtor and archaeologist and father Melver Leonard who worked in advertising and public relations. As a young boy, Anderson made silent films using his father’s Super 8 camera, but he had dreams of eventually becoming a writer. He didn’t pursue this passion at college and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in philosophy where he met Owen Wilson. Wilson would go on to star in many of the director’s features and co-write Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Their first venture and collaboration, Bottle Rocket, that tells the story about a group of young Texans wanting to achieve high-stake heists, was not well received by critics but significantly underperformed at the box-office.
Anderson’s next effort, Rushmore, proved to be more financially successful and helped launch the writer-director’s career. It also rejuvenated the career of Bill Murray who became a staple of American independent cinema after co-starring in Rushmore and has since appeared in every single one of Anderson’s films. Murray has said of working with Anderson, “…you get to see the world, and see Wes live this wonderful, magical life, where his dreamscape comes true. So, if we show up, he gets to have all his fun, and I guess it’s because we like him that we go along with this.” His faith in the director is clearly well placed as he has produced some of the most singular, off-beat and unforgettable films of the 21st century. However, the artist has never been shy about admitting his influences, a notion that bleeds into his characters who often idolise others in order to truly find themselves. This is particularly true in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), as mild-mannered lobby boy Zero finds the quirky Gustave H. inspiring and follows him on a crazy adventure to prove the concierge’s innocence after he is framed for murder. Featuring a stellar cast including Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and Saoirse Ronan (and of course Bill Murray), The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s most adored film to date, bragging a box-office haul of $174.8 million world wide and 9 Oscar nominations that resulted in 4 wins.
After four long years, Anderson returns to our screens this month with his second stop-motion feature, Isle of Dogs (the first being Fantastic Mr. Fox). Set in dystopian Japan, the film is about a pack of dogs who have been quarantined on a remote island due to a “canine flu”. A young boy travels to the island in search of his beloved dog Spots and the pack help him look for his missing pooch and evade the authorities. Isle of Dogs boasts a voice cast that rivals the ensemble of The Grand Budapest Hotel and thus far holds an approval rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It seems that time cannot quell Anderson’s magic touch.
• Rushmore (1998)
• The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
• The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
• Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
• Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
• The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
By Evie Brudenall