Welcome to the Wonderful, Wacky World of Wes Anderson

Christopher Karr

 

Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover.

 

Just in time for the holidays, the esteemed film writer Ian Nathan has released a beautifully illustrated and brilliantly packaged new book called Wes Anderson: The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work (Unofficial and Unauthorized). The book makes a bold declaration before you can pull the volume from its pink milkshake-colored slipcase, purporting to be the definitive reference for all Wes Anderson fans.

 

One might wonder: is such a feat even possible? Anderson inspires a kind of rabid devotion that’s unparalleled among other filmmakers. Sure, there are staunch Tarantinoites, spacey Lynchists, devout Nolanians, and, of course, Paul Thomas Andersonians (does that blessed sect still exist, or did his last three efforts result in P.T.Atheists?).

 

 

Still, one is hard-pressed to think of a filmmaker who’s as absolutely singular as Wes Anderson, and even harder-pressed to think of a fanbase best described as completists. I’m not sure that a casual Wes Anderson fan exists. Once you twirl into his world, it’s easy to get lost there—drunk on his outlandish, affected aesthetics, dazzled by his constricted idiosyncrasy, baffled by his reinvention of what cinematic language can look like.

 

I’m thrilled to report that Nathan just nails it. Both the form (Andersonian flowcharts, lists, an eight-page gatefold section) and content (summaries, analysis, insights, anecdotes) of this book are spectacularly definitive. The authorial feat of following through on the inconceivable ambition of creating the definitive Wes Anderson book cannot be understated. I approached it with reserve and some trepidation. In a sense, I suppose I was poised to be judgmental. But Nathan just knocks it flat out of the park.

 

One example among so many: I had already made up my mind in advance that, if the author didn’t include, say, a thoughtful recounting of Anderson’s run-in with the film critic Pauline Kael, I would have to dismiss the whole thing as amateurish -- a cheap attempt to crunch together the multifaceted tendrils of a true auteur. Of course, Nathan doesn’t disappoint. The Kael meeting is recounted with class, sophistication, brevity, and, I have to say, it’s placed in precisely the right spot.

 

 

What’s especially impressive is Nathan’s meticulous and engagingly balanced round-up of each film. He carries the reader from inception through production and response with meaningful insights along the way. One gem: “The genius of Anderson is how he outwits kitsch—something he achieves by leaning into pathos.” Well, yes—that is exactly right!

 

It’s so satisfying to experience a deep dive from an Anderson obsessive who has a deep understanding of cinema and who also totally gets the filmmaker’s body of work. Nathan makes connections between films by drawing attention to subtle similarities (“Moonrise Kingdom was a return to the romantic impulses of Rushmore”) and dissolving enticing and assumed distinctions (The Grand Budapest Hotel is “tonally, perhaps, the closest relative” to The French Dispatch).

 

Furthermore, experiencing the book (one doesn’t quite read it so much as swim in it) is like strolling through the distinctly-colored halls of Anderson’s imagination. It calls to mind the sensations of revisiting his filmography. 

 

Wes Anderson: The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work is an essential addition to the library of anyone who loves film. But if you know any Anderson fanatics, this volume should be thrust into their hands for mandatory reading. What a treasure, what a treat. Bravo.

 

Author Bio:

Christopher Karr is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

 

For Highbrow Magazine

 

Image Sources:

--John Rasimus (Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

--White Lion Publishing

 

 

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