The work of Wes Anderson, one of the great, singular voices in the American cinema, is celebrated in a new book which charts the whole spectrum of the director’s oeuvre.
It’s just about 20 years since Wes Anderson first made his way in to the film industry with Bottle Rocket, a short which would later be remade as a feature, and a film that would find enough festival success to create a buzz about this very peculiar American filmmaker. His work stands alone, at odds even, with much of what many associate with the largest, loudest national film industry in the English-speaking world, and yet, in spite of this (or perhaps because of), his work is being appreciated on a major scale, and he’s one of the most recognised filmmakers in the world. Anderson’s mere existence serves as a contemporary reminder of the eclecticism that the mainstream cinema of old housed. Of an industry in which the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Sam Fuller and Jean Renoir would prosper creatively. Renoir is an apt figure actually; Martin Scorsese once said that Anderson was the closest we had to a modern Renoir, and this was prior to Anderson’s own journey to india with his own The River, The Darjeeling Limited.
On the eve of Anderson’s third decade Matt Zoller Seitz, founder of Press Play and a man deemed qualified for such a task such as this based on his remarkable series of video essays on Anderson, The Substance Of Style, spins-off and expands on the aforementioned for this, the first in-depth examination of Anderson’s work in book form. It’s a formidable tome, and one stylistically in keeping with Anderson’s very precise style.
It’s a a trove of a book, with detail key. Ten minutes are spent scouring the detail on the front cover, an evening-set mirror of which is repeated on the back, while the leader pages feature impressively detailed interpretations of every character that’s ever spoken in an Anderson film, no matter how minor. In amongst the many Bill Murrays and numerous Wilson brothers sits the likes of Inez, the maid from Bottle Rocket and Weasel the PE teacher from Fantastic Mr. Fox (a character voiced by Anderson himself. The illustrations are by Max Dalton, and are very much in keeping with the Anderson house style. Some of them illustrate this very review.
This ode to detail is reflected upon in the description of Anderson’s work by the author Michael Chabon, who provides a 1,265-word introduction to the volume (each section of the book is foreshadowed by a declaration of how many words feature in each chapter – Max Fischer would be proud). Chabon refers to ‘the work of art’ as a scale model of some striven for ideal, targeted by the more enlightened ones amongst us who long to understand the world in a way that many can’t even begin to comprehend, let alone attempt to pursue. Chabon sees Anderson as one of these figures, who through his own work strives to create a “little world” of his own in an attempt to understand the space he lives in. It’s a thoughtful, impressive capsule definition of a filmmaker whose style alone sets him apart from his contemporaries, and lays down the manifesto for the book itself in apt fashion.
The Wes Anderson Collection is published by Abrams, and is available now.