Atari and his friends in Isle of DogsTWITTER/I_MELON_LORD_I

It’s become a bit of a cliché by now. Ask a young filmmaker who their favourite director is, and their eyes will light up. “There’s this indie auteur,” they’ll gush, “you may have heard of him. His name’s Wes Anderson.” Then they’ll blab for hours about why he’s basically God in a tweed suit. It’s me, by the way. I’m that person who won’t shut up about Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel is my comfort film, Moonrise Kingdom brings me to tears, and I will quote Fantastic Mr. Fox until my dying breath (it’s really cussing good).

But what is it that is so compelling about Wes Anderson and his work? What has made this awkward, pasty white man who lives in three-piece suits a figure so beloved that he has surpassed the status of underground indie darling to become an icon of 21st century cinema? In short, it is his remarkable ability to find the marvelous in the mundane, creating some of the most visually inspired works in modern film while telling stories that are intimate, everyday, and real.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox in Fantastic Mr FoxTWITTER/VICTORRVALE

Fantastic Mr. Fox brilliantly illustrates Anderson’s mastery of taking the small realities of life and transforming them into something grand. Released in 2009, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop-motion adaptation of the eponymous Roald Dahl children’s book. Looking at visuals alone, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stunning film, saturated in rustic hues of yellow and orange, filmed in Anderson’s signature flat style. However, pull the curtain of visual beauty back and what emerges is an intimate and moving family drama. After their years of stealing chickens from farms, Mrs. Fox has settled into domestic life while Mr. Fox actively resists it, seeking to relive his glory days. This desire strains their relationship to such an extent that, after Mr. Fox’s actions lead to their home being destroyed by vengeful farmers, Mrs. Fox sorrowfully states “I love you. But I shouldn’t have married you.” It is a moment that is painfully poignant and relatable, depicting the complexity of relationships and the hurt that comes when things just aren’t working out. For an elegantly shot scene featuring talking foxes that takes place in front of a glistening waterfall, it is nonetheless remarkably human.

“Anderson inspires not because he creates aesthetically pleasing films, but because he finds beauty in the everyday.”

In his most recent film, Isle of Dogs, Anderson returns to the idea of exploring the intimacies of the human experience through animation, animals, and artistic grandeur. Where Fantastic Mr. Fox explores a relationship in turmoil, Isle of Dogs depicts the formation of a friendship. The young Atari searches for his lost dog on Trash Island, the brutal and polluted land of exiled dogs. One such stray, Chief, accompanies Atari. Originally, they travel in mutual dislike, yet, as they brave their perilous quest, a gradual respect forms between them. Their bond is cemented in a simple yet moving game of fetch. Chief resists at first , but then retrieves the metal pipe thrown by Atari. After a moment of silence, Atari whispers: “Good boy” and embraces Chief — a compassionate human interaction Chief has rarely experienced. Chief’s surprised expression speaks to his changed perspective of Atari: from this small moment on we see the evolution of a relationship. A relationship which allows both characters to lower their defences and be vulnerable in a world constantly testing their strength.

The beach from Moonrise KingdomTWITTER/zombylamouche

Critics of Anderson often deride his work as being overly crafted, with the colours, production design, and cinematography bordering on self-parody rather than anything meaningful. However, Anderson’s visuals also play into his ability to transform the everyday into the fantastically fictional. Moonrise Kingdom, for example, takes a lonely New England island inhabited by people in varying degrees of existential crises and turns it into a whimsical playground for the protagonists Sam and Suzy. The theatre where the two lovers meet becomes a labyrinth as Sam weaves his way between masked performers and walks down pastel hallways. The field where the two begin their adventures is awash in yellow and blue, making Sam and Suzy stand out, but also emphasizing their smallness against an indifferent world. The secret beach cove where the two make their home is not grey and desolate, but a place of simple beauty, the sea soft blue and the fog a magical haze that makes everything seem like a fairytale. It becomes a sanctuary where Sam and Suzy’s traumas of abandonment, disregard, and loneliness are shed in favour of innocent passion. When they are forced back into reality, so too does the cove lose its lustre, Anderson’s magical gaze no longer directed at it.


Mountain View

The Sound of Movies: Alexandre Desplat

Wes Anderson has achieved an unparalleled degree of cultural relevance, inspiring not only countless geeky young filmmakers but also the creation of books, playlists, and Instagram accounts all dedicated to his signature style. Accidentally Wes Anderson is the most prominent of these, a photo series that documents the bright colours and nostalgic style so prevalent in Anderson’s filmography as they are found in the real world. Here, Anderson’s style is discovered in libraries and gymnasiums, palaces and humble huts, temples and trains, places that are not only visually stunning but also where people go about their daily lives. The book confirms what Anderson’s films project: that Anderson inspires not because he creates aesthetically pleasing films, but because he finds beauty in the everyday, adding a drop of colour and a dash of whimsy, while always preserving humanity at the core.