Great artists steal, and Wes Anderson is a great artist.
Wes Anderson is someone with a lot of vision. His stories are lyrical and allegorical and sweet and hilarious and melancholy, and everything in between. When you have such a distinct voice like his, it's hard to see how he got that way.
A lot of times, when I look at my idols I wonder how they set themselves up for success.
That's why it is sort of comforting to see that they developed this knowledge and vision by watching others and emulating them. Sure, they have distinct styles and voices, but they're learning just like we're learning.
And even someone so unique as Wes Anderson is still borrowing and stealing from other directors.
Let's take a look at how he does it all in this video from Thomas Flight.
How to Homage Like Wes Anderson
This video essay you hopefully just watched examines how The Grand Budapest Hotel has one of Wes Anderson's most complete and extended references to another director's work. In fact, within it, there's an entire scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain.
When we view these scenes side-by-side, we can talk about what makes something an artistic homage instead of a rip-off.
Let's get this out of the way because Anderson uses his own style and substance—there's no way this is a rip-off. His flare is seen all over the screen. He adds comedy inside what Hitchcock used as tension, and he retimes cuts and elements to fit his film's faster pace.
He also uses a score.
And this sequence functions perfectly whether you've seen Hitchcock's movie or not.
If you have seen the movie, what Anderson does is flip the expectations. Instead of someone listening for footsteps, someone else disguises their footsteps so they can escape.
At the end of the day, Anderson is not imitating Hitch because he likes the scene, he's imitating it because he learned something; how to play with our expectations and create a clever story.
So, I think that solidifies Anderson's auteur status while also saying someone cognizant of who's doing what in film history. And how those shots and influences can help him create the world he wants within his own project.
What can we take away?
As I wrote at the top, great artists steal. Well, they steal and then repurpose what they stole to fit into the world they give us.
Don't be afraid to keep learning and to keep consuming.
What are some other artists you've noticed to do that...hint: That's how Tarantino made his way into Hollywood and how he continues to have success!
Let me know in the comments.
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