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Wes Anderson Season @ Chapter Arts Centre

Few would argue that Wes Anderson is one of the most head-turning of mainstream directors today. His style of films are instantly familiar with countless tracking shots, vintage costumes/sets and a wry sense of humour all his own. After the huge success of Isle of Dogs, let’s explore his back catalogue.    


Moonrise Kingdom 

Dir: Wes Anderson

Starring: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, Kara Hayward & Bob Balaban. 

94 mins | Drama, Comedy | 12

Moonrise Kingdom is a perfect idle to New England, seen through the eyes of two plucky young people. Orphan Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) escape their confined lives and set off for their on hipster style Swallows and Amazons adventure. This leads to the whole town, including Sam’s scout troupe to hunt them down and return them. It’s a delightful affair that is filled to the brim with the music of Benjamin Britten, just in time for his centenary celebrations back in 2013.

The mise-en-scène is always immaculate (look no further than the pristine opening scene) and at times feels like a time capsule from the 60s or early 70s. Although it slightly overstays it welcome (though the climax is good fun with an odd appearance from Tilda Swinton) it does have a lot of charm and a film that teenagers should definitely label under essential viewing. 

Moonrise Kingdom: ****

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Dir; Wes Anderson

Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Defoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambom, Noah Taylor, Bud Cort, Seu Jorge

119 mins | Drama, Comedy | 15

Here’s another famous plunge from Anderson. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is an odd film, even for this most delightful of directors. Mocking documentaries and the culture around them, Bill Murray is Zissou, a great sea captain, who makes compelling ocean set films, even if the audience are not as keen as they used to be. He vows to find the make-believe shark that killed his dear friend, thus leading to their most daring documentary yet.

All the troupes of Anderson magic are here, but it somehow falls flat. Could it be component of having Murray as a lead, a make or break decision for a film? The drier than usual humour? Or the fact it’s just not as good as his other canon? An attractive element is the trippy animation which is seen little in the film, though dazzles whenever it is on screen. The ending with the discovery of the glowing shark is a mighty sight and perhaps the best moment in the film. A mixed bag, with some charm and appeal.  

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou: ***

Fantastic Mr Fox

Dir: Wes Anderson

Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Chase Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Defoe, Owen Wilson & Jarvis Cocker. 

97 mins | Drama, Comedy, Animation | PG 

Anderson’s first venture into stop-motion proved to be an exciting prospect for animation lovers everywhere. Perhaps one of Roald Dahl’s best transfers to film, this is a delight for both children and adults, though I feel it is much more for the mature audience. The work might border on the uncanny valley (some moments don’t look out of place in a Jan Švankmajer short) there is a great appeal from all the critters of the forest here. It bubbles with wit, action and humour that would, in all honesty, go over children’s head.

It’s the little things you spot that are also a delight: Mr Fox’s chair a replica of Dahl’s own, the nod to actress Mink Stole for a fleeting pun and the snazzy remarks on real estate. It is a very funny film and the joy is in not having to know the source material, as it is infused with a chippy vitality all of its own. Stealing the show are Willem Defoe as a creepy, deep south rat and Michael Gambon’s ruthless Bean, one of the three farmers ravished by Fox’s stealing hand.   

Whilst the Dahl celebration dampened down a few years prior, this is one Fox you’ll want to hunt out very soon. 

Fantastic Mr Fox: ****

 Also, I should point out that Isle of Dogs, is another must see. My review is below.

Chapter Arts Centre continues with Anim18, A Celebration of Animation featuring screenings of Watership Down, The Secret of NIHM, Chicken Run and Animal Farm this May.  

Read Weeping Tudor’s review of Wes Anderson latest animated film Isle of Dogs.

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