Crazy Train

I know a lot of people who were worried about Wes Anderson after seeing The Life Aquatic, which is probably the most decidedly weird of all of his films. Though I enjoyed that film quite a bit, I understand the arguments against it: that it is stubbornly slow-moving in parts, or too obsessed with idiosyncrasies. I will freely admit that the presence of Bill Murray does a lot toward my ability to forgive a movie’s flaws, as does a gorgeous set built to facilitate long tracking shots.

darjeeling.jpgIt’s my thought that Anderson’s new movie, The Darjeeling Limited (which he wrote with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman) is in some ways a response to the sorts of criticisms his last film brought. I don’t much like it when people try to speculate about a filmmaker’s thought process, but it is hard to deny that there is a level of maturity in this movie, both in the characterizations and in the thematic resolution, that in The Life Aquatic was a bit obscured by quirkiness for quirkiness’s sake, weirdness that one hopes will bring about more revelation than it does. The three Whitman brothers (played greatly by veteran Anderson club members Owen Wilson and Schwartzman, along with very welcome new pledge Adrien Brody) are also weird, but their reasons for such behavior are satisfyingly accessible and understandable. They begin the film in one state and end it in another. Every event on the journey is clear in its significance. Overall, the film has a sense of purpose that is only matched in the Anderson catalogue by the great Rushmore. I recommend it, though with the warning not to expect too much from the short film playing before it, Hotel Chevalier, which gives us some backstory for Schwartzman’s character. It crosses the line of pretentiousness that Anderson usually steps back from in time.

I am already anticipating what Wes Anderson will do with his next movie, an animated version of the Roald Dahl classic Fantastic Mr. Fox. I can’t begin to think of what it will end up being like, but it will certainly be a departure from what he’s done so far. I love seeing a talented filmmaker tackle a new genre.

Another quick note while I’m on the subject of accomplished young filmmakers: I’d also like to recommend, for people who don’t mind a little weirdness in their movies, Craig Brewer’s latest, Black Snake Moan. This has been out on dvd for a few months, but I’ve just gotten around to seeing it and don’t know many other people who have. Brewer was the writer and director of one of my favorite movies of 2005, the genre-defying rap & prostitution masterpiece Hustle & Flow. His newer movie doesn’t stick so close to a feeling of realism, instead venturing into contemporary gothic. The performances are captivating, including the first real bit of acting I’ve seen from Justin Timberlake, who has amazing chemistry with Christina Ricci and even holds his own in a pivotal scene with Samuel L. Jackson. Brewer proves himself to be another filmmaker whose every project I’ll look forward to.


2 Responses to “Crazy Train”

  1. 1 ndrwmtsn October 30, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    the o.s.t. for life aquatic was better than the movie. fuck, i am a huge wes anderson fan. big-time into bottle rocket and when rushmore came out, i was pretty sure it was the best movie ever.

    tenenbaums was more style than substance, announcing a disheartening turn away from things like, oh i don’t know, CHARACTERS with REAL FEELINGS that i ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT.

    as for life aquatic, yeah the halved boat is tight and it’s cool to have seu jorge (sp?) in the flick, but seriously. visual masterbation, cool though it may be, will never make up for CONFUSED STORYLINES and CHARACTERS WITH NO SUBSTANCE. sorry for YELLING.

    i felt like anderson betrayed me with tenenbaums and totally alienated me with zissou. he lost his heart.

    i barely BARELY have it in me to forgive him. i will probably see this movie tho.

    guess what brandi? hustle & flow IS a fucking masterpiece and i’m glad you love it. i love that dj qualls is totally unironic in that movie. and i love that the director/writer (same guy, right?) put so much substance in music that’s mostly lambasted (and often rightly so) for being so vacant.

    i wish they’d stuck with “beat that bitch” tho.

    i will check out black snake moan because h&f blew my mind.

  2. 2 ndrwmtsn October 30, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    oh, and if you like brilliant filmmakers venturing into new genres, have you seen spike lee’s when the levees broke? any? all four hours?

    i heard it’s good.

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