'What's the meaning of this sh*t?!': Wes Anderson's top five films
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As Isle of Dogs closes in, we decide Anderson's five best films. A lot of people find it very easy to cast off Wes Anderson’s recent filmography, or his entire body of work, as emotionless. Empathy and warmth, being too imperfect to disturb his doll-house compositions, are jostled out of every frame for not being symmetrical enough, leaving little more than well-oiled machines working like clockwork. But, even with the overbearing whiteness of every single story he’s ever told, Anderson’s trademark is not to make everything look like an illustration in a textbook or a still from a travel documentary made in the 1960s. It’s melancholy, found in characters who are either pathetic adults or prematurely neurotic children trying not to turn into pathetic adults. He’s given some of Hollywood’s most underrated actors the chance to give marvellous performances, housing them in perfect proscenium arches that deceive the audience into thinking that everything happening inside is just as perfect. You only need to see Ben Stiller’s Chaz Tenenbaum tell his father that he’s had a rough year in The Royal Tenenbaums, or Bill Murray’s cuckolded Mr Bishop pray for a great gale to carry him away in Moonrise Kingdom, to know that there is deep-seated sadness in Anderson’s vision. His films live or die by how sympathetic we are to that vision, but when they live, they are beautiful. To mark the release of his latest, Isle of Dogs, here are his five finest films to date. 5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) It makes sense that Anderson was attracted to Roald Dahl. Though Dahl’s use of a repeating, self-referencing structure is far more about harnessing the power of nursery rhymes and childlike prose, it’s also neat and meticulous, and neatness is Anderson’s trade. Even as Anderson deviates from Dahl’s book, the soul is still there – playful, but also lateral and constructed. Anderson’s casual eccentricities are still likely to lose the younger viewers, but it’s unquestionably his brightest, most big-hearted work. 4. Rushmore (1998) Anderson still felt tethered to reality back in 1998, and heightening that reality was the best thing he could have done. Following Jason Schwartzman in his born-to-play role as preppy teenager Max Fischer, a private high-school student whose commitment to extra-curricular activities has negatively impacted his studies, Anderson suggested for the first time in Rushmore that young people find it easy to romanticise their lives. Fischer envisions life like a Salinger novel, romanticised and post-modern, but like all of us at fifteen years old, he thinks far beyond his years, to the irritation of the adults around him. He becomes infatuated with a school-teacher, competing for her affections with Bill Murray’s Herman Blume (the beginning in a series of wonderful collaborations between Murray and Anderson) and spouting Stoner-esque non-sequiturs. It’s Schwartzman and Anderson’s unwavering commitment to Fischer’s precociousness that allows the film to land on its feet. Not once is his spell broken, making Rushmore toe a line between pitying irony and genuine novelistic profundity. 3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Anderson’s largest undertaking yet might well have fallen short of its ambition. It seemed almost too obvious for someone with a craftsman’s precision to make a film that looks like a series of dollhouse cakes, and the film’s hall of fame cast seemed to be nudging parody very hard in the ribs. Murray, Goldblum, Dafoe, Swinton, Norton, Keitel (!), Brody (!!), Wilson (!!!), Schwartzman (!!!!) and, to top it all off, Ralph Fiennes in the spotlight?! It was like they’d all been nabbed just to elicit progressively more shrill squeals of delight as the trailer wound on.
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