Friday, September 14, 2012

The Andersonian Kingdom

I can't pretend to know a whole heap about Wes Anderson's film world - I've only seen a couple of his films, but I'm going to throw it out there that Moonrise Kingdom might possibly be one of his best.

My experience so far of anything Andersonian (Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr. Fox ... The Darjeeling Limited is also patiently awaiting me in a pile of rentals in the living room) has been enjoyable enough, but I still hadn't fallen altogether in love with his style. Nevertheless, I knew Moonrise Kingdom would be worth a watch ... but I really underestimated the power and beauty of this film.

Moonrise is the story of twelve-year-olds Sam and Suzy: penpals who fall in love and decide to run away together, causing a party of boy scouts, parents, island police and even Social Services to go gallivanting around in search of them.

The great thing about this film compared to the rest of Anderson's is that he's finally decided to go period - which actually fits his filming style. Anderson is extremely old-fashioned is his framing and shooting techniques so setting his story in 1965 is just about the best timezone he could possible throw himself into. Surprisingly, he was born in 1969 ... definitely one of those people not quite born in the right era.

I love it when new films makes reference to older classic films, stories or directors that started a genre or a movement or a style, and Anderson pays homage to many greats in Moonrise, including Shawshank Redemption, Stanley Kubrick, and Peter Pan ... but his biggest influence is most certainly Pierrot Le Fou by Jean-Luc Godard.

Obviously Anderson has a huge love for this film, as there are some uncanny resemblances: Pierrot Le Fou was filmed in 1965, for one; both films center around a couple on the run, Suzy's clothing reflects style icon Anna Karina, and the female protagonists of both films use scissors as a weapon. The scene in Moonrise that most brings Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina to mind is, of course, the beach scene.

I couldn't find amazing pictures of either film, but below you can see how watching Sam and Suzy dance together on the beach instantly reminded me of a Godard film.

The only things I can really fault are the cinematography - incredible shots most of the time but the occasional sloppy/soft frames - and the use of some of the cameos. I'm a big Coen Brothers fan so it was a shame to see Frances McDormand's amazing talent go a little to waste, as well as Tilda Swinton. Both these women rock on screen so I was disappointed that they weren't really in it much. At the same time I'm not sure how I would have felt if Anderson had used lesser known or even unknown actors for the parts, because there's still a great magic and nostalgia brought by the various big-name supports; you remember all the other films you've seen them in as you're watching it, which is part of what makes Moonrise special. It conjures up memories of past stories, real and fictional, and you start wishing you were a kid again. I think most Anderson films give you that feeling.

For all it's bizarreness, I absolutely loved this movie, and I really recommend you go and see it, especially if you're a lover of classics, or you're feeling nostalgic for your childhood, or you just want to run away and fall in love.