Wes Anderson the Absurd

#27 Cussing photo of director Wes Anderson on the set of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009)

The director/writer has a cult following and a hefty percentage of people who just don’t get him. This is indicative of his work, for Anderson’s films are full of contrasts and absurdities. There is an eloquence to his symmetrical staging of nature and characters like viewing artwork in a gallery.  Also, there is a jerkiness to his presentation with frozen pauses and delayed deliveries in contrast with ramped up movement and chase scenes of the collective. His dark themes contrast with brilliant colors, unnatural and creepy, like watching a cartoon. His characters are buffoons who grow on you because their intentions are noble while their schemes are ridiculous and violent. Above all, I like the intimacy of his films; his much-favored center shot places me in the front row before the proscenium. I breathe the plot and see the shimmer of sweat on the performers before me. Like a magician, Wes Anderson has suspended disbelief, and I am entertained.

theater of the absurd
1.theater in which standard or naturalistic conventions of plot,characterization, and thematic structure are ignored or distorted in order to convey the irrational or fictive nature of reality and the essential isolation of humanity in a meaningless world. 

One could argue Wes Anderson has modified the characteristics from the theater of the absurd and adapted it to his filmography. Is Wes Anderson a modern twist of Friedrich Dürrenmatt? I would love to see Anderson create a film adaptation of The Visit.

Anderson’s stories feel fragmented and bizarre, yet end up cohesive and imaginative. He has a knack for including violence and profanity into his world, and it doesn’t feel offensive. There’s a boyish charm to his stories, as though Anderson was a precocious seventh grader and never grew up, but with adult sophistication he now has the power to revisit the bullies, dogs, and authority figures and make them look ridiculous. Sweet revenge. Check out this great vimeo by Dávid Velenczei:

In The Fantastic Mr. Fox, he removes all profanity and inserts the word “cuss”.  This makes his character quirky and fun to listen. If you listen closely, all his scripts are full of puns and innuendos and satire. Anderson is one of the few directors who spreads out this talent and shares it with an ensemble cast. It’s not the principal character that’s great. It’s all of them.

You can count on his motley crew to stay put at an isolated setting. An apartment building. A train. A boat. A school. An island. A farm. A hotel. You can count on an elaborate chase scene and a fight. You can count on a quirky, perfect score of random hits and no CGI. And an askew happy ending.

It’s difficult to say which is my favorite. I hear his next film will be another stop-motion film about dogs. I loved The Fantastic Mr. Fox, so I’m all for it.

What do you think of Wes Anderson? 

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