Dig Baton Rouge

That Wonderfully Nostalgic Smell

By Bill Arceneaux

Did you know that, at one point, Wes Anderson was on a shortlist to direct The Amazing Spiderman? Indeed. There was even a parody trailer released on YouTube, envisioning what his movie might look like. Contemplative glances – sometimes awkward, sometimes romantic – and rich colors throughout, this spoof comes close to replicating what could’ve happened. Of course, we’ll never actually know. Though, some will assume that they’ll hate it. After all, Wes is a know-it-all hipster…

… but is he not talented?

There is an old-fashioned sweetness, a genuine innocent quality lost in this rather cynical time, that pulses within Anderson’s films. Call it whimsical, call it quirky, call it childish; I prefer nostalgic. His style harkens back to the pioneer days of cinema, where techniques were still being polished and discovered, and entertaining an audience came hand in hand with emotionally connecting with them. Sometimes flamboyant, sometimes deadpan, but always engaging.
His latest film (now on BluRay/DVD/Digital) The Grand Budapest Hotel is probably his most accessible film to date. While I would argue that all of his movies are watchable, Grand feels universal. Just like the others, it’s meticulously crafted, with every piece in (and out) of the frame having a level of significance to the action captured. Even elements that would be more collaborative, like cinematography and editing, feel tightly controlled. One painter for one painting, I suppose.
The universality, I would say, comes from two places. The first is in the presentation itself. Taking place in a few different time periods, Grand expresses itself most triumphantly through its atmosphere of slapstick. No, not many stunts occur, but a Buster Keaton would’ve been more than welcome in this world. In fact, it may even be possible that, since it’s all told from memory and emotion, some classic cinema may have seeped into the subconscious of the narrator – though, one quick scene in a movie theater doesn’t fully explain this hunch. Characters respond to one another in hilarious deadpan, no matter what ridiculous event has just happened. They seem to be completely comfortable in a loony environment.
The second place is what the story means, to me at least. From the beginning, a young woman opens a book. From there, we get the author’s perspective. Then, the man he interviews. Then, a faded memory, influenced and altered by time. At the end, it all comes back around. During my viewing, I smelled that old book smell, oddly at first, but in hindsight, it makes sense. Grand isn’t just wackiness in an older era, but the feeling that can only be given and received through reading, listening and watching. Storytelling! It isn’t making a deep point on this act, but rather suggesting that the story itself doesn’t need to be any deeper than the emotions felt and the places it transports you to. It’s always nice to be reminded of that.
Wes will, more than likely, never make a superhero film, and that’s both good and bad. Good in that he won’t compromise on story and style, bad in that some characters deserve his kind of treatment. Maybe not Spiderman, but I’m sure there’s something out there that’ll work within his universe. After all, most things work well in it.

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Best Moment(s) – Wes Anderson’s sense of humor
Worst Moment(s) – Adrien Brody’s sense of hair style
Advice – Not all hipsters are bad…

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