Since the release of his sophomore film, Rushmore, in 1998, Wes Anderson has become of the most influential directors in cinema — chiefly for his off-center, retro, hyper-stylized aesthetic — up there with Q.T. and his Reservoir Dogs/Pulp Fiction-era L.A. pop culture kitsch. Anderson has made a career out of a singular style so striking that it has received a great deal of imitation, as well as parody, but he did not start that way. In the 13-minute-short from 1994, Bottle Rocket, which would two years later become the feature of the same name and which also starred Luke and Owen Wilson, Anderson is strikingly invisible. I only say that because, and even though it makes perfect sense, one would almost expect the director to have leapt, fully formed, into existence.
No doubt, what this film shows is a young director getting his feet wet, and even after the short went to Sundance and led to the director's first feature, it wasn't until 1998 that Anderson would move into his defined style with the release of Rushmore, a film that simultaneously did the universe a massive favor by resurrecting and reinventing Bill Murray. And as his budgets have grown along with his confidence, Anderson has become a towering presence.
"It’s incredible how, in the span of just a few years, though, and with the freedom of a feature, Anderson’s aesthetic evolved over the remainder of the 1990s"
When Bottle Rocket was released, it received considerable attention in the indie world, but was not a smash. Keep in mind, this was the era when Pulp Fiction had just become the first indie to earn over a hundred million dollars, and it was a golden age for young directors. This documentary on the making of Bottle Rocket is required viewing for any fan of indie film, and paints a picture of this moment in time:
While his peer (and other Anderson) P.T. has moved off in wildly different cinematic directions from the style of his early work Hard Eight and Boogie Nights, Wes Anderson has solidified and explored a more singular direction, towards the creation of a quirky cosmology all his own. These two videos offer a great look at the embryonic Anderson, who had not yet developed a way of looking at the world that would prove so massively influential in film and pop culture.