Seems like all I am talking about at the moment is the weather.
Last night I took my mum to see two Wes Anderson movies at The Astor. The Astor, for those who don't know, is a wonderful old-time movie cinema in Chapel Street, just this side (south side) of Dandenong Road. The address listed is Melbourne but I'd say it's St Kilda East or maybe St Kilda, not sure where the boundary lies. I always thought Chapel was the boundary.
The Astor does double billings and their choc tops are really good. Old style as well, and big.
So we went along, it was busy. Lots of Wes fans but also, curiously, quite a few older people, like my mum's vintage. They can be Wes fans as well of course. People can have a drink, it's pretty relaxed (though there is a man on the microphone who introduces each movie and woe betide you if you think you can still be looking at your phone after the lights have dimmed ready for the film. Last night he came back on the mike and said 'Still waiting for some of you who still have your phones out.' I reckon he was up the back in the box and could see the lighted phone screens. And there used to be a cat Marzipan who would slink through and sit on people's laps, walk along the top front ledge of the upper seating area.
The Astor Cat
Marzipan died in March last year and her facebook page is still up with more than 2,000 friends.
The double show cost $15. I don't know of a cinema in Melbourne where you can get to see ONE movie for that price. The first show last night was The Grand Budapest Hotel. I'd seen it already with Clokes a few weeks ago when it came out. Like with all Anderson films so far*, I LOVED it. There is something about Wes. His colour palettes, the whimsy and quirk, the nostalgia. The symmetrical framing. Some people, who like to be all serieux with bearded chin in hands and talk about filmography and major versus minor artistes say Anderson is not a major. Well, good then. I think there's something too playful and childlike about his movies for some people. I think possibly they are confronted by, and taken surprise by, the intense emotion that can spring in your eyes when watching these films. You recognise yourself, or you recognise a better self, and either of these realisations can be sad in a way. You miss things about your younger self, or if not, are glad to not be in that place anymore. You meet characters you can admire, but they can be heroic one moment, like M. Gustave in Budapest standing up against the 'Nazis' for Zero the Bell Boy and then in another scene, berating the dogged, faithful Zero for forgetting to bring something, and then lapsing into a nasty tirade about refugees staying where they belong and not getting above themselves by seeking a better life. It's wonderfully nuanced and reminds me of the way Chris Lilley manages to set you up to think one way about a character, lulls you into a false sense of comfort by encouraging you to think it's 'just a comedy' (although some people don't find any of it funny at all) and he lets you think you know that character on the screen because so far it's only a stereotyped view and we can't get away from preconceived notions and then showing Jonah, say, vulnerable and motherless and showing you why he is so angry, reactive and well-defended with all his tagging and swearing and hostile behaviour. He is seeking attention. He is craving someone to show him love and patience and affection. All he gets is the opposite of those but of course it's because he provokes it. (I know there is criticism about Lilley and his cultural appropriation in the Jonah character and storyline. Some people have said it's offensive and I get that. Everyone's going to have a different reaction to this as well as film as well as books. But for me, Jonah is the character with the most pathos about him. And he's realistic. Maybe not a realistic portrayal of the way Tongan boys would behave in general, but surely there's one Tongan boy out there off the rails and in pain like Jonah? Sometimes when people accept stereotypes they expect to then be fixed but that's the very thing about individuals. Maybe Jonah is an example of a boy, just one, and if there's truth in one then that's worth showing. And what's true in Jonah might then be true of other boys of his circumstance, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, and so you get commonalities across large groups of people.
I'd love to hear what other people think about this.
Anyway. Back to Wes. Mum loved Budapest too. Then we watched The Darjeeling Limited, which is possibly my favourite if I had to pick a favourite but it's too hard to separate the joy of Rushmore, Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom. The Life Aquatic I love but maybe not quite as much as the others. I'm not sure maybe I have to look at it again. I cried again in Darjeeling. I see it as a beautiful, sad and real portrayal of family with comments on competing birth order, grief over lost parents, messy relationships, and how people want a spiritual experience and can do all the things, visit the temples, wear the beads and flowing clothes but it's not deep in the end. It's only things that happen in life, the full-on real things, like birth and death, events like these that can cause real transformation. Also that you might be looking for something and you won't find it; it's when you're not looking that things sneak up on you.
I think another reason people poo-poo the Wes is because he uses humour, his films can be so funny, and of course you can't have serious themes and commentary if there is humour, right? No, you must be all self-important and grave. Also his strong styling and occasional use of very fixed and fake-looking sets, in Budapest there were quaint little funiculars and a very faux ski scene which to me was hilarious but others might go what the fuck, it's so fake, couldn't he be more realistic about it? Another thing is actor faces are very blank, they deliver their lines with little affect often, so the whole feel is artificial and stilted (apart from Owen Wilson, in Darjeeling. He is the 'animated' elder brother.)
Me, I love it, all of it. I think Anderson is a genius. I think he was either like the guy in Rushmore or wanted to be like the guy in Rushmore. And the boy in Moonrise. And he is possibly one of the brothers in Darjeeling (although I just looked up an article and it seems that movie came from him travelling around India by train with Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola. Article here). But yep, he's got two brothers.
24 Things About Wes Anderson
* Apart from Fantastic Mr Fox. I didn't really like that. Not sure why.