Monday, November 12, 2007

No Country for Wes Anderson

Saturday night, we went to the Arclight to watch No Country for Old Men. But it was sold out (both the 7:40 and 8:30 shows). I guess I should have gotten tickets beforehand, but it was playing on 2 different screens, and it isn't like a new Spider-Man movie or something...I guess what threw me was that I never go to movies that late, when most people go (I like to go in the late afternoon, like 6:00 or earlier). So we ended up seeing Darjeeling Limited. At first, I didn't want to see it--I was so excited by No Country, and so in the frame of mind for that film, that I had to loiter around the lobby for 15 minutes to get in the frame of mind to see another film, but I figured I'd just be going home and doing nothing otherwise.

As we went in, I was kicking myself over Hotel Chevalier--I downloaded it weeks ago, but never got around to watching it. Fortunately, they showed Chevalier in the theater (an Arclight exclusive, maybe?).

It took me a while to really get into Darjeeling. It was mildly entertaining me, but I was getting annoyed with the characters, and started hoping these assholes would end up in the Hostel. But then there's this nice bit of physical comedy with the pepper spray which seems to wake the movie up a bit, and from that point on I enjoyed it.

I have two competing (although not mutually exclusive) ideas about what's going on with these characters, especially Francis (Owen Wilson). The less charitable one is that they aren't really interested in having a spiritual experience. Instead they're interested in the image of themselves going on a spiritual quest through India and finding themselves. This seems to be supported by the Hotel Chevalier sequence: When Jack's Ex comes to visit, we see him working behind the scenes to assemble his image. He knows exactly what image he wants to project, what song he wants playing (a horrible song, btw), what brooding mood he wants to affect, at what point he will take her to the balcony to see his view of Paris. Taken this way, the story justifies Anderson's beautiful yet overly staged shots: we are looking at the characters through their own point of view, as they picture what a striking scene they're posed in (the scene near the very end, when they climb the mountain and start doing tai chi moves, seems to confirm this as well).

The other way I kept looking at it was that Francis genuinely wants to have a spiritual experience, but he has no idea how to go about it. He's read about people having them, so he sets about an itinerary the same way you'd go about visiting restaurants through France or something. Of course, both of these interpretations are thrown off a bit by the revalation later in the film that Francis has ulterior motives for bringing them on the trip, but I think this second interpretation resolves with that fact. Francis, and his brothers, are searching for something very elusive: a connection with God, with The Universe, with their mother, with their dead father, whatever.


Blogger Ben MirĂ³ said...

After seeing Darjeeling I wasn't really sure if I liked it. Filmmakers with daddy issues. I'm over I'm less inclined to go along with their cinematic catharsis.

I like both your ideas. I would definitely sub God for Dad...that not being too far a stretch after all.

More abstract, but with this one and Zissou...there's a working class sensibility that I think Anderson has lost. Which definitely puts a distance between me and his films. Still great...but sorta effete.


11/13/2007 4:23 AM  
Blogger Chris Oliver said...

Oh yeah, I definitely like his first two films the best. After that, he's not one of my favorites, but he's doing interesting stuff.

One thing I can kinda relate to is how the three brothers, even as adults, they still have this brother dynamic. It's hard learning to relate to family members as an adult, you know?

So bummed about No Country For Old Men!

11/13/2007 8:19 AM  

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