The Antipodean Anderson

(ed’s note: Welcome to our newest contributor, South Paw!)

As “The Darjeeling Limited” is nearing the end of its Australia run, it’s time for us to take a look at how the film has fared. Jason Schwartzman took a promo trip down under a short while ago, and though we can’t take a trip ourselves, we’ll soar the internet skies instead. Below is a look at what the Aussies have been saying about Mr. Anderson’s latest. A couple of these links have been posted before, but have been included again here for your convenience. Enjoy!

The charmingly-named Wollondilly Advertiser (Wollondilly Shire is just south of Sydney in New South Wales and supplies the city with most of its waters) reviewed TDL in its January 22, 2008 Edition in “Oh Brothers, What an Amazing Journey”. The WA described TDL as “unpredictable and “impossible to categorize”, but also that it “has elements of a travel adventure, it is partly family drama, it is often funny and sometimes downright bizarre.” Overall a positive review, “breath of fresh air” for audiences and the good people of the Shire.

The Age is a publication of the mighty city of Melbourne, spiritual home to the nutty players and fans of Australia Rules Football. It begins its coverage of TDL with “A Passage to India”, a December 22nd, 2007 interview with Anderson (conducted at the Venice Film Festival). It focuses on the Marc Jacobs/Vuitton luggage topics in the film. It notes that “dandy” director Anderson has “climbed new heights of stylistic glamour” in this new film. After some pondering over the representations of India the feature claims that “The Darjeeling Limited is about the best advertisement for travelling to India I’ve ever seen.” Anderson notes in the article that the Vuitton luggage is partly going to auction for charity and partly to the Vuitton museum.

The Age’s December 27th, 2007 review of TDL begins “Love him or hate him, no director now working has a more eye-catching style than Wes Anderson.” A somewhat ambivalent, though mostly positive (and 3 Stars) review, which focuses on the spiritual journey of the film. Notably the review singles out “The Life Aquatic” as Anderson’s “best film”. It also notes, that “only Schwartzman, with his brash, faintly repulsive energy, manages to emerge from the film’s cocoon as something like a real boy.”

The Age follows their December review of TDL with a January 4th, 2008 article on films in India called “India Through Western Eyes”. The article uses TDL to take a look at Western cinemas treatment of India from “Passage to India” to Fritz Lang’s “The Indian Tomb” and Renoir’s “The River”. It claims that “as he demonstrated in The Life Aquatic (2004) Anderson is certainly not immune to the nostalgic charms of colonial adventure.” The feature focuses mostly on the comparisons between TDL and other films in India and notes how Westerners often end up seeing themselves most of all, rather than the place around them in that land.

The Brisbane Courier-Mail (or actually its sabbath day version, The Sunday Mail) reviewed TDL in December in “Oh brother, Siblings Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, and Owen Wilson.” Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city, kid brother to Melbourne and Sydney. The town is all about business and this review does have much time for TDL. It uses the “quirky” label for Anderson and feels the “plot twist” to be forced. It does acknowledge Anderson’s “talent” for dialog, though it worries he may think himself too “clever”. 3 Stars.

The Brisbane Times is the hardworking competitor to the Courier-Mail (owned by world mastermind Rupert Murdoch) and it means even more business. It uses TDL as a platform for discussing rail travel in India in this December 24th article “Trains Offer Insight Into India”. It doesn’t make the trip sound too enticing, honestly. But it does give you a few tips on how to work your foreigner status to get a seat, even when the locals are hanging off the outside.

The Brisbane Times also tackles TDL more head on in this interview with Anderson, “Tea For Three”. Actually I think it’s just quotes pulled from the Venice Film Festival press conference. Still it provides for a nice introduction to the Anderson teams and their past films.

Ah, Sydney, home to the magnificent Opera house and rival to Melbourne. Elton John even recently edited an edition of Time Out Sydney (and interviewed Director Baz Lurhmann) The review, “The Darjeeling Limited” from December 24th, 2007 begins by describing Mr. Anderson as “idiosyncratic” and “mannered” but goes on to give a mostly positive description of the film. The review draws a nice comparison between the character Francis and the director: There’s an irony about the way Anderson has made the movie. I’m guessing his personality corresponds most closely with Francis, the control freak. His insistence on shooting on a real train in India is Francis-like, even if the movie is about the way that India cannot be stormed. Anderson is wiser than Francis, though, because he sees all of the grandeur that surrounds him.” Four stars are given.

This is a follow up feature in The Sydney Morning Herald to their review from five days previous. This December 29th piece on TDL is called “Emotional Baggage” (I know, a groaner of a title, right?) and is a recycle of the Age’s “A Passage to India.” Good to know that newsprint journalism appears to be in just as much of a crisis as here in the US (I hope you, dear reader, are also watching season 5 of “The Wire”).

Unless you have an Australian friend or lover you may not know that Australia’s capital is Canberra. Now you can win at Trivial Pursuit! (or Cranium!) It was created to settle the power struggle between the old matrons Sydney and Melbourne on the beautiful Molonglo River. In The Canberra Times review of TDL, “Three Men on a Spiritual Track” (January 4th, 2008) is actually just the review from the Sydney Morning Herald with a new title. The downfall of Australian media continues.

The Daily Telegraph is Sydney’s everyman’s paper and it uses its December 22nd review of TDL “Owen Wilson is Back on the Rails” to take a look at Wilson’s career (with mostly frowns) but claims TDL “features the best acting Wilson has done – a performance that may point the way forward, professionally and personally, for this troubled soul.” The review is, however, unsparing with the film as a whole, which it sees as a “grating, crushing failure”. The words “quirky” and “precious” are used to describe why. Another Rupert Murdoch paper, of course.

The Herald Sun is Melbourne’s sister paper to The Daily Telegraph. This December 16th story “Chaos and Celebrity on a Passage to India” uses Schwartzman as an introduction to TDL. It discusses his connections to the film aristocracy, career in film and music and relationship with “offbeat director” Anderson. It even mentions that Schwartzman played some drums on Ben Lee’s latest album. It’s nice to see that someone cares about Ben Lee! Way to support your own, Australia.

We would never dare to confuse New Zealand with Australia, but they sure are close on the map and don’t sound as different from one another as they claim. The New Zealand Herald, an Auckland paper, isn’t afraid to use words like “quirky” to describe Anderson’s filmmaking. The December 20th, 2007 review remarks how well Brody fit in with the old Anderson gang, but thinks TDL “lacks energy” and that Team Anderson need to move on. 3 Stars.

The News is the online mothership for Rupert Murdoch’s empire in Australia. This December 14th review of the film begins in trepidation, worrying that “offbeat” director lost some of his funny, but ultimately give TDL a very good review: “The movie is not your average Hollywood blockbuster, it is real, it is deep and examines damaged lives. Anderson, it seems, has this uncanny ability to create and capture true dysfunction.”

The Australian is (gasp) another Rupert Murdoch piece. It’s a nationally distributed newspaper (like USA Today) make sure every shire and village on the continent keeps up with the news. This might be a review many Australians outside the major cities might have read. It too is trepidatious, even in its title “Enigmatic train trip movie hard to gauge.” It mostly lets Schwartzman due to the talking, describing the movies non-traditional approaches and the killer quote: “Like it or not, it’s made by people and not by a bunch of jerks.”

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