Archive for May, 2012


Having just left the cinema watching Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s latest directorial effort I must say I felt the same disappointment I’ve had from each of his other films. It is a film that receives good reviews and leads to an expectation of brilliance for a man who is apparently dubbed as the next ‘Scorsese’. However to me it seemed a lot like his other films full of potential before spoiling it and becoming overly self-indulgent and lacking of any real substance. In this post I will examine whether he is in-fact the ‘Genius’ people hail him as or if he’s just popular because of his unique filmmaking style.

Firstly I’ll discuss the use of comedy within his films, now the comedy is a combination of dark, deadpan and plain daft which work together creating something which though not outright hilarious will bring a smile to most people faces (mine included). Watching Moonrise Kingdom it became clear from an audiences reaction that jokes that can only be described as daft bring out the biggest laughs for instance a moment when Bill Murray lifts an entire tent, however to me these jokes appear gimmicky and pointless; there is no need or motivation it is there for a cheap laugh. I’m not saying that cheap laughs are necessarily a bad thing in fact I will happily watch a low-brow teen comedy knowing exactly what to expect; however in these films it appears often out of place and context thrown in for no real reason. In terms of dark comedy this is something that he does much better for example in the Royal Tenenbaums themes that are often portrayed delicately in cinema such as death, adoption and drug abuse are used as the core of jokes. This helps the film come together as the dark comedy enhances the sense of the dysfunctional family, however the comedy seems over-reliant and forced as they push on the boundary of what could be considered too dark yet are too afraid to cross the line in the same way other dark comedies such as Harold and Maude do.

Something which it is almost universally agreed that Wes Anderson has a knack for is production design, even those who dislike it can see the extreme originality that are created in his sets and costumes. Think of Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore and you think instantly of the round glasses and ridiculous red hat; this is a cult classic and a fancy dress favourite. There’s also the red tracksuits from Royal Tenenbaums, which are used to make that obvious visual joke and symbolise Ben Stiller’s protectiveness of his son.

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In terms of sets as well everything is clearly thought out to the minute detail, making sure that not one inch of frame is left unnoticed by the viewer; this is something unrivalled by any other filmmaker, however it also sometimes comes across as a bit pretentious and over-the-top for example in Moonrise Kingdom I found the layout and décor of Bill Murray’s house to be distracting rather than awesome and it took me out of the film as I attempted to figure out what it signified.

When talking about production design and Wes Anderson it is impossible not to mention his stop-motion venture The Fantastic Mr Fox, this film contains some of the best set design I have ever experienced on par with classics such as Barry Lyndon and Moulin Rouge. Even more so when you think that each of the characters was perhaps 3 inches tall meaning some of the objects created must have been minuscule.

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In conclusion I would argue that whilst I find some of Wes Anderson’s work fairly entertaining and very nice to look at, with each film he makes I seem to notice more how a lack of substance is masked by production design and ridiculous jokes. I’m not sure he has made anything with a message that will be remembered even though he has created several films that will be remembered as iconic.

I leave you with a video that should help sum up my points about the hipster side to his films:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5KfHEoZDKI

Ok before I begin the actual blog post I’m just going to write a couple of lines on what I’m doing here and why I’m writing this. Basically I’m a Film Student who (predictably) love film, therefore the prospect of writing a blog on such a subject seemed fairly obvious.

As for this particular posting it is the first post in a series that should have occur once a week for an entire year. The whole series is dedicated to watching the films of the Master of Suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock. Basically I recently discovered the genius directed exactly 52 films (I’ve seen about 10 so far) so thought it would be awesome to watch one a week – starting from his feature – and write a review type thingy on here.

So enough rambling on and here is my thoughts of the Hitchcock’s directorial debut: THE PLEASURE GARDEN

“WHAT HAPPENED?

The Pleasure Garden obviously being made in 1925 precedes the Jazz Singer by 2 years meaning that sound in cinema was not yet established as something to drive the artform forward and subsequently the film is a silent film.

In terms of the narrative of the film is rather complezx. It begins with blatant Hitchcockian voyeurism, there are lots of pretty girls dancing and we see an old man with binoculars staring at their legs with a blurry point of view shot.

After this we discover one of these girls to be the main character, a brunette called Patsy (played by Virginia Valli). Patsy is a hard working dancer, she is not extremely talented but pretty enough to get by and pay the rent at a humble flat and look after her dog, Cuddles. After the performance Patsy happens to meet Jill, a young girl who looks surprisingly similar to Patsy. Jill is from the country and has spent all her money trying to get to London. Patsy and Jill soon become friends leading to the introduction of the men to the story. Hugh (John Stewart – no relation to James although he is tall, dark and handsome) is Jill’s fiancee and is just above to move to the Far East with work for two years in order to save up enough money to marry her. He also introduces his boss Mr. Levet to our lovely girls. Before long Mr. Levet has seduced Patsy by asking her ‘Can’t we share our loneliness together’ and so they are married. However what Mr. Levet doesn’t tell his new wife is that he has a mistress in the Far East where he works. Patsy therefore waits for a letter from her husband but when he doesn’t respond presumes he is ill so goes to ask Jill (who is now high flying and having seemingly forgotten Hugh engaged to a Prince) for some money. Jill flat out refuses leaving Patsy to scrape the money together from her kindly landlords. Once she arrives in the Far East predictably thinks kick off with several twists, which will not be mentioned here as they are probably the best part of the film.

THE GOOD

To start with the good points to this film there are several very classic Hitchcockian ideas portrayed in this film albeit not used as well as in some of his latter films.

As aforementioned the film starts with voyeuristic shots of an old perving over young girls legs. This allows the audience to see through his eyes as we see a blurry shot of what he is looking at. However this man does not play any sort of major role within the film and therefore I’m not entirely sure the significance of point of such a shot.

The themes of death, murder and adultery are all tackled in this film which of-course are areas that will be covered by Hitchcock throughout his career and there are several points where the suspense is intense as any scene from Psycho.

Perhaps my favourite part of the film was the use of the dog Cuddles as symbology and comic relief. He appears only briefly in the film but every time he graces the screen I smiled and it felt fantastic.

THE BAD

As for the bad points there are a few which should be discussed primarily to do with the poor structure and pacing of the film. The film begins well telling the story visually with the use of minimal title cards to break up the action. Then when it reaches the middle of the film where it is centred on characters conversations it loses all pace and rhythm as title cards interrupt the viewing every few seconds to explain what is going on. This of-course cannot really be helped but it is still rather annoying and distracting.

The main problem however I had with this film was that the two lead women both looked too similar that I found it hard to tell at points which character was Jill and which was Patsy. This became extremely distracting and took me away from the extremely confusing narrative on several occasions.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Ok. Well this section is going to appear each week discussing Hitchcock’s cameo in each film however it turns out he did not start cameos until his third directorial effort so there is nothing to discuss for the pleasure garden.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This film is far from great, it has good moments but it is clear Hitchcock is a long way off achieving the fame he is destined for. I therefore award this film 2 Hitchcocks (basically a start system but with pictures of Hitchcock because it’s all about him).

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Thanks for reading 🙂