August 30, 2018

Watch: How to Spot Wes Anderson's Style From the Very Beginning of His Career

Wes Anderson is one of the most distinctive filmmakers working in Hollywood today, and this video looks at his debut 'Bottle Rocket' to find the roots of his style.

Wes Anderson is, arguably, the most influential filmmaker of the past 20 years. Certain stylistic flourishes are indelibly associated with him, and perhaps more than any living individual, Anderson can claim credit for the ascendance of 'quirkiness' as an aesthetic. He has been the subject of countless parodies and birthed a thousand indies; without Wes Anderson, would there be a Napoleon Dynamite?

However, there was a time before Wes Anderson was Wes Anderson, and it's this time period (and the movie he made then) that is under examination in a new video by Thomas Flight, searching for the roots of Anderson's mature style throughout his first film, Bottle Rocket. Check out the video below.

Bottle Rocket's release in 1996 announced the arrival of a new talent, though in his debut, Anderson had yet to define the cinematic universe that he was to become known for. Then again, debut films (and novels) are very rarely fully mature works. In order to make a film, one must first make a film, with all of the attendant costs and logistical planning that entails.

In the mid-90s (pre-DSLR revolution), it was considerably more difficult to make a movie; making movies is still not exactly easy, but it's easier to get your hands on equipment and resources that filmmakers, for decades, had to beg, borrow, and steal just to have access to for a weekend.

Furthermore, it might be instructive to remember that in the pre-drone era, aerial shots were exponentially more expensive, time-consuming, and dangerous. 

There is the fact that Anderson had never directed a feature film before, though he had made a 15-minute iteration of Bottle Rocket that was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. There's a heavy French New Wave influence that appears in the short (the jazz soundtrack, handheld black-and-white cinematography) and which has stayed with Anderson's films through his career.

What we see, especially in the short, is Wes Anderson stripped bare, without a budget. There's also the fact that Anderson has stated that his lack of experience in filmmaking led to moments on the set of the Bottle Rocket feature where he realized that he didn't know certain elementary things about directing a scene. What is evident, however, is a raw talent, and 9 out of 10 people, given a camera and the resources to make a film, would not turn in anything half as interesting.

Flight makes the point that Anderson's way with dialogue is apparent in this early work, which is also interesting because it was co-written with Owen Wilson, a long-time friend and collaborator. Hallmarks of Anderson's visual style that make an appearance in Bottle Rocket  are his use of pans, zooms, and long tracking shots, "all ways of using camera movement to develop a shot" but ways that become, of course, inexorably more complicated with time and money.

This video is a good look at Anderson's early stylistic traits, the ones which were apparent from the beginning before he was not just a filmmaker, but a style icon.      

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3 Comments

This may be a unpopular opinion and I'm not sure why I thought it was a good time to stop being a lurker but I think heavy style is more of a detriment to a film then it serves it. Just like how not every camera or lighting setup is right for every job, how is it ok to use the same stylistic choices for every film? I like Wes Anderson films and I'm not saying everything has to be new concepts (we all know that everything comes from something else anyway) but I personally would like to see Wes Anderson's perspective on something rather than him forcing a story to revolve around his specific aesthetic. To be honest, it's getting old and I know exactly what to expect when walking into the theatre. That being said, I'll still watch and probably enjoy anything he puts out in the future...probably.

Oh god, did I just click post?

August 30, 2018 at 5:23PM

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August 31, 2018 at 5:35PM

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No Film School
CEO at Yes Film School
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Love the idea for this series!

August 31, 2018 at 3:05PM

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