Tonight, I get to go to the premiere of "The Darjeeling Limited," the new Wes Anderson film.
Now, see, I frickin' LOVE Wes Anderson. He's a young(ish) filmmaker with an extremely distinctive voice, one of just a few (Charlie Kaufman, him, Sofia Coppola, Jason Reitman, Michel Gondry, and of course our Ms. Cody) who are making films which stamp themselves with an actual, notable, interesting *style*. There's plenty of great films out there, but only a very few where the voice of the filmmaker or writer -- visual or written word, doesn't matter, both are equally important -- actually matters.
And that freaks people out, and brings out the haters. It's easy to like a generically GOOD film. It's harder to like a film that drips with the filmmaker's STYLE. People's complaints about Wes are usually the following:
1. He's just "stringing together hip songs and trying to be hip and being all hip and shit." Now, listen -- if you're not actually an artist yourself you won't get it, quite, but nobody makes art to try to be hip. Seriously: nobody. If you're at the level where you're making a film -- a TREMENDOUS EFFORT -- you are making that bastard because you give a shit about the characters and believe deeply that what you're doing is art. Or else you're going for the pure commercial and wanting to make money. But nobody's just "doing it to try to be hip." Believe me -- that's such a hollow victory that its not worth the effort.
2. "Yawn! More genius from Wes Anderson." This happens any time an artist has more than one great film/record/book in a row. See, right now, Michael Chabon -- his new novel, following the exquisite "Yiddish Policeman's Union," has folks yawning in boredom because it's just more greatness. What people WANT is spectacular failure. When artists don't give 'em that, and are consistently awesome, people get bored and find someone else who's gonna do what they want, i.e. fail miserably.
3. "He's repeating himself." Plah. Peter Travers tackles this complaint in his excellent and VERY POSITIVE review, here.
He gets it, does Travers. He understands that a filmmaker can spend a LIFETIME exploring certain themes, see also: Woody Allen, or, as he says, Alfred Hitchcock, and never run out of ideas.
I mean, it's one thing to not like his style. That's fine and dandy -- if you don't like it, you don't like it. The fact that it HAS a style means its not for everybody. But it drives me bananas when people use one of the above excuses as a reason for justifying disliking the style. It's nonsense.
Anyway: will report back. I've yet to dislike an Anderson film yet -- I even enjoyed "The Life Aquatic" quite a lot, even though I'll admit its probably my 4th favorite of his 4 great films (that ain't a bad thing -- and let me just say up front that "Royal Tenenbaums" is my favorite film of all time).