Blocking and Punching

Great fight scene in THE DARJEELING LIMITED! (starts at around 4:06)

Enjoyed this Wes Anderson, which I belatedly got around to after adoring FANTASTIC MR FOX, although I did have more trouble than usual with the fact that his characters are all rich layabouts with designer suitcases. Why should that bother me? It might be because the characters are out of their natural environment, which might be presumed to be the kind of urban world of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. India here is a colorful backdrop to the privileged cavortings centre-stage, and it seemed there might be more of dramatic import going on behind, say, Adrien Brody. But the film seems aware of this ridiculousness, and of the touristic nature of the characters’ approach to India, and of it’s own fairly shallow skimming of the subcontinental surface. And it’s laying a trap, because things do get deeper and darker.

Meanwhile, the fight, where the comedy comes not from slapstick blows exchanged, but from camera blocking — it’s all “jump up from below frame” and “step left out of frame” until it’s basically a choreographed puppet show using real protoplasm instead of foam rubber (not counting all the packing attached to Owen Wilson’s head).

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28 Responses to “Blocking and Punching”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    I’ve only ever seen THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS and don’t recall a great deal of that. The soundtrack had some fantastic dirges by Nico – and Gwyneth Paltrow was oddly touching as the depressed daughter.

  2. Anderson’s best is his first, Bottle Rocket – a genuinely great movie in the spirit of Hal Ashby. He’s become more mannered with every film since then, from the interesting Rushmore, to the extraordinary but somehow too hermetically sealed New Yorker magazine world of Tennenbaums, and downhill from there (except for the marvellous Mr Fox).

  3. THE LIFE AQUATIC was the first Wes Anderson film to fall flat for me, up to that point in his directorial career he had an unbroken record of films that won me over (his choice of music for his soundtracks didn’t hurt either). I have yet to see either FOX or DARJEELING, but there will come a day when I rectify that. Love his casting too, it was great to discover Seymour Cassel, who played a big part in Cassavetes’ films of the Seventies (to see him with his hair in a ponytail after seeing him in Anderson’s films, well let’s just say it was more than a little surprising).

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    WA seems to have a problem with self-actualized women, since Huston’s character (“Mother Patricia”) is lampooned as a ludicrous, even contemptible, personification of Second Wave feminism.

  5. Wes is a very cool guy.

    The Royal Tenenbaums remains my fave for many reasons, not least of which being I knew a family almost exactyllike that back in the early sixties who lived in a house on the upper west side EXACTLY like that. He wasn’t even BORN yet when key events of my teenage years took place there.

  6. This used to be part of Darjeeling Limited. For some reason he cut it.

  7. Why deprve the world of the breathtaking magnificence of Natalie Portman’s derriere ?

  8. My favorite Rich Layabouts with Designer Suitcases movie:

  9. I was iffy about the short film, but when you watch The Darjeeling Ltd there’s a nice moment where it sort of crashes into the narrative. So it doesn’t really operate as a short, more as a prelude.

    I sort of went off WA at the time of Life Aquatic, although it had nice things. I’ll revisit it sometime.

    And I don’t think Anjelica H’s character was lampooned worse than the brothers. Indeed, she knew what she wanted and was trying to do a good job with her life, which can’t really be said for them. I think he likes his characters to be kind of jerks, but he likes them at the same time.

  10. That “dirge” was written by Jackson Browne when he was 15 uears-old for his first girlfriend. Yes, Nico was his first grilfriend. Here’s another version.

  11. david wingrove Says:

    Wow! Nico was Jackson Browne’s first girlfriend? Nothing like starting at the top!

  12. I came to Wes Anderson late, because I felt “Rushmore” on first view(now I think it’s pretty good) was very affected and inert. But after seeing ”The Life Aquatic” on TV I became an instant fan. It was the moment when they battled the pirates to the tune of Iggy Pop’s ”Search and Destroy” that won me over. Then I saw his earlier films, ”Bottle Rocket” is a masterpiece and Owen Wilson gives an amazing performance as Dignan, after that ”The Royal Tenenbaums” for Anjelica Huston and Gwyneth Paltrow and of course Gene Hackman. I missed both his recent films – ”The Darjeeling Limited” and ”Fantastic Mr. Fox”(which never released here).

  13. Only seen TRT, a smug film which really got on my wick. Gave up on WA after that, but may have to try him again at some point.

  14. Wehn Nico broke off from the Velvet Undergroudn to do her own act, jackson Browne was hired to accompnay her on guitar. He wrote his first songs for her. Bob Dylan wrote songs for her too. But then she decided to write her own and thus her late career was born. The documentary Nico/Icon covers it in details, inlcuding an interview with Jackson Browne — to this day gobsmacked by meeting her. here’s a triubute song he wote to her years later.

  15. For me Royal Tenenbaums is still Anderson’s best (or at least most quotable, which is a slightly different thing) film but I felt Darjeeling Limited ran it a close second in my affectations (I’ve still unfortunately got Fantastic Mr Fox in my ‘to watch’ pile!) This felt like the first time Anderson seemed able to casually reference his previous films in cinematic shorthand (the Bill Murray handover, the assistant making a hasty exit abandoning the main characters compared to the bond clerk in Life Aquatic, Angelica Huston taking on the Royal Tenenbaum-esque role)

    I love the way the “I couldn’t save mine” line is simultaneously both condemnatory and insightful for the characters, something which is only compounded by the ‘real Indian’ funeral triggering off the New York flashback. Darjeeling Limited is just a more explicit statement on the ‘travelling the world in order to find yourself’ idea, something that I’ve always found somewhat suspicious even before The Beach (the novel of course!) punctured the fantasy so thoroughly! Anderson though explores the idea of moral tragedy underlying the privilege of the international traveller much more deeply than Boyle does.

    It’s a shame (but not too much of a surprise) that Danny Boyle seemed to retreat into Bollywood fantasies for Slumdog Millionaire which makes an interesting comparison with Darjeeling – Slumdog is a layer of aesthetised superficial grit over a hollow and patronising centre while Darjeeling is superficially hypercomposed framing and characterisation while underneath much more fascinating, messy and uncontainable themes are explored.

  16. I should have asked Wes what he thought of One From the Heart

  17. I can imagine he might have liked it…

    What’s rather nice is that a lot of us have had troubles with one or two or more WA films, but we keep coming back, and often finding more that we like. So maybe he skips a film for some people, but without losing it altogether. I think Mr Fox is excellent, maybe it could even do with more of the problematic elements of the over-privileged kids films, but it’s close to perfect as it is.

  18. Rhyming “Dom Perignon” with “you turn me on”… now that’s classic.

    Have never seen “One from the Heart”; thanks for the clip.

    I am one of the ambivalent ones when it comes to Wes Anderson. I like the American Express ad though, Thanks.

    I think part of Anderson’s real appeal, beyond the Salinger-esqe nostalgia, is that the shaggy dog- ness of the characters relates in some way to the process of acting, and why actors start acting in the first place.

  19. That’s my favourite bit of OFTH. I saw it as a clip long before I saw the film, and was disappointed the movie wasn’t all about Nastasja and Raul. Later on I got to like it for itself.

    Anderson is clearly actor-friendly, in a way that someone like David O Russell… not so much.

  20. david wingrove Says:

    ONE FROM THE HEART is perhaps the one American movie that approaches the spirit of Jacques Demy, Powell & Pressburger or any of the great European musical fantasists. It’s hallucinatory studio-built Las Vegas is a rival for Visconti’s ghostly (and also studio-built) Livorno in WHITE NIGHTS. A much underrated movie, and not only because Nastassja is simply sublime!

  21. I used to live a few blocks away from the Zoetrope lot (the old National General studios) and would visit frequently. I wasn’t there for the shooting (alas) but I saw all the sets, including the incredible miniatures.
    OFTH was Coppola’s attempt to tunr Teri Garr into a Big Above The Title Star. She’s magnificent in it. Today she works occasionally but is largely wheelchair-bound due to M.S.

    Love to Tom Waits score, especially “Old Boyfriends” and “Take Me Home.”

  22. It must have broken Coppola’s heart because it’s made with such love and generosity, whatever the flaws, and the critics and public just didn’t want it. Although one could argue the public didn’t get a chance to se for themselves.

  23. God bless Teri Garr. I just recently saw her in a YouTube Clip, A go-go dancer in amongst other go-go dancers, she worked a lot back in the early Sixties dancing on television. She’s pretty smart, funny, more than a little self-deprecating, and a magnificent filly of a girl in her youthful prime. I would easily welcome someone like her into my life.

  24. She’s a doll!

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