Plenty of directors have a distinctive style: the inevitable cheese at the end of a Spielberg, the surrealism of Terry Gilliam, that whizz-bang editing that Guy Ritchie can’t let go of (see Sherlock Holmes 2). Wes Anderson goes one step further. His style is instantly recognisable and for fans, this means his new film Moonrise Kingdom is an exciting prospect. The trailer has those tell-tale Anderson signs that marked his first big hit Rushmore (1998) as an innovation in cinema. But with some fresh ingredients thrown in the mix (Ed Norton and Bruce Willis among others), his new release promises to be compelling viewing. To celebrate his new picture, here’s a Wes Anderson film recipe.
1) Simmer humour over low heat
Think of Bill Murray with a straight face. This is the Anderson sense of humour; people saying slightly absurd, occasionally manic, things with a deadly straight face. His camera shots linger a little longer than we’re used to, and there’s a quivering pause, usually on a face dead in the centre looking awesomely underwhelmed. Pithy, witty dialogue (often one-liners) pepper his films and give it that distinctive Anderson flavour. Take with a pinch of salt.
2) Stretch visuals and roll out thick
Anderson likes long pans, sometimes the length of a train, and slow motion, often where it’s totally unexpected. These are the shots that stay with you, and form a central part of his films. Catching a train, walking to a funeral, a captain showing you his boat: they’re little snippets of cinema magic that feel rich and exciting. You’ll know one instantly by the sudden turn in soundtrack and that sigh of contentment coming from the bottom of your chest.
3) Stir in actors from earlier
Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Angelica Houston, the Wilson brothers – Anderson’s films tend to recycle cast members. Moonrise Kingdom is a collaboration with Roman Coppola (Sofia’s brother), who he’s worked with before. Watching his films is a bit like visiting a family you loved as a child; everyone looks a bit different, but they’re all there like last time.
4) Add cigarettes
Vices feature heavily, be it liquor, the odd sea-spliff or prescription cough medicine. But it’s smoking that features the most; a limp cigarette hugging a bottom lip while two people watch the unspoken furl out in the smoke. Anderson’s films are sympathetic to the things that keep us ticking and there’s a reassurance there. This is part of life and no one’s judging. “Let’s go have a drink and smoke a cigarette.” (The Darjeeling Limited, 2007).
5) Spoon into elaborate baking tray
Impressive sets feature in his best pictures. The incredible half-boat of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), the train carriages of The Darjeeling Limited (2007). Often the action centres around these points, the only place with direction when his characters are confused. They’re beautiful and they give cohesion to films that sometimes feel a lot like life: false starts, drifting towards nowhere but with something important at the centre, be it trust, love or a jaguar shark.
6) Serve with a sprinkle of bad parenting
Anderson knows family. He knows the ridiculous, the frustrating, the indifference, the currents that flicker below a pleasant conversation. The dialogue in his films is astute and sensitive, and there’s always some disastrous parenting. Bill Murray’s short appearance with an axe and a beer in the new trailer promises not to disappoint on this front.
Moonrise Kingdom is out in the UK on 25th May 2012. Long-time fans, don’t miss out. For those new to Anderson, start your love affair here.