WES ANDERSON - FRANCOPHILE
“I want to try not to repeat myself. But then I seem to do it continuously in my films”
Wes Anderson’s films are meticulously crafted into one unified style. They are rooted in nostalgia, wholly unnaturalistic and expose the artificiality of filmmaking itself. Because of his systematic approach, he has been labelled an auteur. A notion that was conceived in the 1960s by the French New Wave movement.
Indeed, Anderson has cited the impact of directors such as Godard and Truffaut as particular influences on how he makes his own films.
Take Truffaut’s debut, The 400 Blows (1959). Largely autobiographical, it was a hauntingly honest, observational film. A far cry from what we have come to expect with the style of Wes Anderson. Yet, like The 400 Blows, Rushmore (1998) is based on Anderson’s own childhood experiences, albeit a private high school education in Houston, Texas. In both films, the protagonists are outsiders, do poorly in school and are eventually expelled. Similarly, a scene in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) shows Ari and Uzi steal bottles of milk from outside a shop in clear reference to when Antoine does the same thing in The 400 Blows. (See photo 1)
Both The Royal Tenenbaums and Jules et Jim (1962) open with a narrator detailing the lives of the characters and their back-story in quick succession. Anderson has also lifted dialogue from this Truffaut film in The Life Aquatic (2004). Steve and fellow seaman Klaus are stood outside the room of a woman whom they are both trying to court. Steve pulls him aside saying “Not this one, Klaus”, mirroring the line from Jules et Jim as the two men stand outside the room of Catherine. “Not this one, Jim”.
It appears Anderson has taken influence from the way Truffaut portrayed his characters and instead utilised Godard’s radical and iconic ‘collage’ style. Take the scene in The Life Aquatic where Steve directly addresses the audience, before we are guided through a beautifully ambitious single gliding shot of his ship. This scene is an almost direct copy from Tout Va Bien (1972), where Godard’s camera pans across the meat factory set. (See photo 2)
Furthermore, both Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou (1965) can be compared. Strangely both female protagonists are involved in violent acts with scissors. In Anderson’s film, Suzie stabs a scout whilst on the run with Sam, while Marianne, from Godard’s feature, stabs and kills a man as she is attacked in her home. In both examples, the editing itself is elliptical. We never see the action in real time. (See photo 3)
For all of these influences, Wes Anderson’s films can still comfortably fit within Hollywood filmmaking. His homages still differ greatly from the overall themes of films from The French New Wave. The final images always echo a clear sense of resolution. Although tragedy may have occurred, a feeling of hope is always expressed, with the characters having endured a journey causing them to change for the better.