This week I chose to watch 3 film by Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom. All three films have strong similarities both thematically and through execution. There is a clear theme of neglected and misunderstood children in all 3 of these movies. The siblings in The Royal Tenenbaums are all fairly neurotic in their own ways because they grew up without their father. Sam and Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom both come from homes where their parents (or foster parents) don’t understand them. And Ash in Fantastic Mr. Fox is constantly doubting himself because he feels he is living in the shadows of his cousin Kristofferson. Again, he is a son of a father who doesn’t spend enough time with him to understand him. These neglectful parents, specifically father figures pop up in each of these films, leading the viewer to believe that maybe Wes Anderson has had his own familial issues in the past. His movies also tend to feel like a throwback to simpler times. His movies, from what I’ve seen, tend to be set either in the past or during a time before our digital age. This focus on time periods when social interactions were more personal and people actually spent time outdoors give his films a very nostalgic feel.
There is no doubt that Wes Anderson has a strong directing style. You could take a still from any of his movies and imidiately identify his signature approach. All of his films are shot using primarily flat staging. He uses what seems to be a very simplistic compositional technique and constantly finds way to turn the staging on it’s head by playing with forced perspective and camera movement. At the beginning of Moonrise Kingdom this staging is used to give the sets a very nostalgic look. The camera passes through the rooms of a house as if it were an old dollhouse and the illusion is broken when actors begin to enter the rooms. Anderson also has fun with the fact that you have no sense of perspective with flat staging. There is one shot in Moonrise Kingdom where you initially think a phone is very large in the forground until a girl walks up to it and makes the phone look miniscule in comparison. The flat compositions also work well with his subject matter since flat staging is used primarily for comedic effect. Fantastic Mr. Fox has a lot of fast paced action and dialogue and the quick cuts with characters essentially looking directly into the camera back and forth are very amusing. His directing style gives his films a signature quirky feel that sets them apart from mainstream Hollywood films that tend to focus on sweeping, epic camera moves and effects. His films, at times, feel like living story books. This is partially because he is very practical in his directing style. He doesn’t rely on many CGI effects to make his films. One example that comes to mind is the use of cotton balls to create smoke in Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s clear a lot of his visuals are just practical effects and it’s the kind of traditional technique that you don’t see a lot of in films today.