Friday, August 17, 2007

Married to the Sea - Part 2

One of the most discussed and notable aspects of Anderson’s misè-en-scene is costume; it is idiosyncratic and often highly stylised to the point of absurdity. But this technique is not random or shallow; the costumes convey important information about the characters and the world in which they live – or rather, the worlds that they would rather believe in. Throughout Rushmore, the protagonist Max Fischer rarely changes from his beloved Rushmore Academy uniform, except for a few exaggerated clichés for his extra-curricular clubs; a red beret for the French club, all-black for his drama club (‘The Max Fischer Players’), a checked scarf for the flying club, etc. Max does change his clothes when his life goes downhill – he wears a large woolly hat and clothes that are too small – as if he is trying to avoid his problems by returning to his peaceful, increasingly distant childhood.

This trend of idiosyncrasy is continued in the next two films: in The Royal Tenenabums, the central characters wear variations of the same costumes from their childhood, trying to recreate their child prodigy days by forbidding themselves to move on with time. Ben Stiller’s widower, Chas, dresses himself and his two sons in identical Adidas tracksuits and black perms. This choice of costume – highly irregular, were it not for the film’s cartoonish tone – instantly tells the audience about Chas’ neurotic grief, and reflects the kind of stilted, troubled family relationships that define the film.

The crew of The Belafonte, Steve Zissou’s ship in The Life Aquatic…, are constantly dressed in matching uniforms (even with equivalents in swimming costume and pyjama form). With their matching red woollen hats, blue shorts and ‘Z’ insignias, Team Zissou have been dressed by Steve in order to emulate his style and (expired) fame. He has trapped everyone around him in his own glorified, nostalgic vision of himself.

Hyperbolic costumes such as these are intended for more than the comedic effect; they tell us about the characters’ convictions in their own efforts, and give us the sense that the mythical realities in which they live – be it Rushmore Academy, a retro-cool New York or an ocean full of cartoon fish – are in fact ones that they have created for themselves. It is as if the characters, like Anderson, have crafted their world especially to suit their needs, and, often, their professional work.

All three of Anderson’s latest films are separated into chapters, using some kind of structural framing device. The Royal Tenenbaums uses the conceit of an on-screen novel (like in the books written by the characters), including chapter headings, The Life Aquatic… uses documentary episodes (like in the films of Steve Zissou), and Rushmore announces each month with a theatrical curtain (like in the plays staged by Max Fischer). As well as providing a convenient and pleasing structural device, this technique wraps the audience up in the minds of the films’ protagonists; the way the film is made and presented is parallel to the way in which the characters work, and live their lives. They are so committed to their convictions that they do view the stories of their lives as plays, or films, or novels. Like Anderson, they see no reason to compromise their actions for any niggling details such as reality. This chaptering device draws the audience into their world – or rather, Anderson’s world – and away from our own.

In addition to establishing an individual style of authorship, Anderson is regarded to be part of a New Wave of Hollywood films, shared by other auteurs such as Sofia Coppola, Charlie Kaufman, Alexander Payne and P.T. Anderson. In fact, the Wave includes a vast number of films and filmmakers, the links between them being sometimes tenuous – but recognisable characteristics are definitely shared between them. These include stylised visuals, compilation soundtracks, complex characterisations and black, ironic humour. Another important trait is ‘blankness’ – utilising the filmic style to lend the films a sense of detachment or dampened effect. In The Life Aquatic…, one scene shows a cross-section of The Belafonte, the camera guiding us between the rooms while Zissou narrates. The visuals are obviously artificial and fantastical, complete with two smiling dolphins and a yellow mini-submarine. Despite this, the sequence maintains a sense of irony, due to Bill Murray’s mundanely deadpan voiceover (“The bearing cases aren’t supposed to look like that, but we can’t afford to fix them this year”).

This sequence demonstrates a juxtaposition that explains why Anderson has a place of honour among a New Wave of ironic films. The stylised aesthetic is off-set by the blank narration; the sweeping scale of the visuals is off-set by the prosaic details. The effect of this is to create a 2D comic-book style, the kind of fantasy we associate with childhood, and the playful, theatrical comedy in the films provide an adolescent charm. Anderson has been described as an ‘auteur of arrested adolescence’, which is accurate, as it seems that his inspirations – and ambitions - lie primarily in his youth. Like his characters, Anderson has created his own world, the consistency of which can definitely give him the auteur label.


Arabella Dream said...

Insects? I don't know what you're talking about, Joel. What insects? There aren't any insects in those photographs!

Arabella Dream said...

Wait, you didn't mean the snails did you?? Because snails are gastropods!


Anonymous said...

Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up
and let you know a few of the images aren't loading properly.
I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
I've tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

Stop by my web page :: Hearthstone Gold Hack

Anonymous said...

I was able to find good info from your content.

My page; garcinia cambogia weight loss reviews

resume writing services said...

Really very nice and interesting post thanks for sharing useful information......keep it up.....

sen watson said...

I found it quiet interesting ,Thank you for posting the great content about cheapest essay writing servicesI was looking for something like this…, hopefully you will keep posting such blogs…

Anonymous said...

Pretty element of content. I just stumbled upon your site and in accession capital
to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your weblog posts.
Any way I'll be subscribing for your feeds or even I success you get right of entry to persistently quickly.

Look at my website after effects ()

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where you're getting your info, but great topic.
I needs to spend some time learning much more
or understanding more. Thanks for excellent information I was looking for
this info for my mission.

my blog :: painters in Mississauga

Anonymous said...

Waay cool! Some νery valiԀ points! I appreciate you writing this article and the reѕt of the site is very good.

Feel free to visit my web-site malware protection

Anonymous said...

The presentations are played with low body price and results
in slower animations and video clip playback. And your icons will load faster, producing your
alter to just about every software extremely easily.

my web site; cydia tweaks;,

Anonymous said...

People lose their faith at the loss of life of an harmless loved one.
She watches a boxing match so she can talk about it with you.
The unhappy truth is that your sexual partner might not even know they have a illness.

Have a look at my web site std test kit

Anonymous said...

Reverse mortgage money could be invested to provide long-term income.

If the equity in the home is higher than the balance of the loan, the remaining equity belongs to
the estate. So the number of reverse mortgages finalized will likely only increase in coming years.

Review my webpage - mortgage help