(credit: Houston Chronicle, more photos after the break)
First, if you live in the Houston area, you can see Rushmore tonight on the big screen!
Discovery Green’s free movie series celebrates Houston on film with a 10th anniversary screening of this indie classic by Houstonian Wes Anderson.
Event times: 5 September 2008 (Friday), 7.30 pm (link)
Andrew Dansby has written a great article about the 10th anniversary of Rushmore for the Houston Chronicle (link):
It takes a special eye to see Houston as the setting for a fairy tale. Wes Anderson thought about shooting his second film, Rushmore, in New England, but he couldn’t find a location that worked for the titular school.
So he asked his mother, real estate agent Texas Anderson, to shoot his alma mater, St. John’s School, “standing in the circle and rotating while shooting one photo after another,” she said. The search ended there.
Having found Rushmore Academy right in his backyard, Wes Anderson’s next task was finding Houston locations for the rest of the film. (By the way, the city is never stated as the setting in the movie.) He shot most of it at St. John’s, but there are also scenes filmed at a home in West University, Lamar High School, a barbershop in the Heights, North Shore High School, the Forest Club on Memorial and a stadium parking lot just outside the Loop (see map on Page E3).
When he needed a school that would allow minor pyro for Max Fischer’s (Jason Schwartzman) play, Anderson found one in North Shore, according to his father, Mel, who works in public relations.
“I was impressed to see the trucks and equipment of thee volunteer fire departmentsinside,” Mel Anderson said. “And there was Wes, calmly directing the whole thing.”
While little clues (police insignias and buses) give away the fact that Anderson’s cult film was shot here, Rushmore, which turns 10 this week and is being screened tonight at Discovery Green, was designed as a tale without region.
That lack of specificity makes Rushmore a refreshing film to watch multiple times. It feels apolitical (especially after the two recent political conventions) and dreamy. It’s an entirely lovable movie about sometimes, but not always, lovable characters. The sweet, sad, charming and irritating ways we regard each other — family, friends, acquaintances and chapel partners — ring true.
Rushmore still lends itself to the practices of cult-movie watching, with its strange quotable bits about how its hero, Max, misses the seasons at his old school, Rushmore, after transferring to one across the street; or how interesting it is that two people could both have dead people in their lives.
Max — played with cuddly complexity by a very young Schwartzman — is too real a dreamer. He’s a quintessential jack of all trades, master of none; a profound underachiever.
He falls in love with things the way he perceives them and crashes hard when they let him down. He’s as hypocritical as the rest of us, lionizing the progress we like and nostalgic for the way some things were.
Anderson’s mother mentioned that the St. John’s of Rushmore is “practically unrecognizable now.”
In a way that underscores the fluid charm that makes Rushmore so satisfying years later: that timelessness and placelessness. It’s something Anderson might have been referencing in the title. Max puts the stone-built school on a pedestal. He romanticizes it and is ruined by it. Maybe it wasn’t the right place for him after all. Or maybe he should have avoided treating it like a monument.
On the subject of monuments, Mount Rushmore is a curious one. The bright idea of blasting presidential likenesses out of a mountain is a peculiar ode to icons and progress. Choosing human iconography over heavenly beauty shows a strong commitment to the modern over the natural.
At the same time, having seen it, it’s a strangely and inexplicably breathtaking landmark.
Was carving up a mountain worth it? I don’t know. If Anderson’s title was a reference to the monument, I haven’t heard him say so. He deftly distances himself from that sort of judgment in his work. His movies indicate he likes to think we can change for the better. That’s his concern. Sometimes it takes a near-death experience, other times it’s losing a loved one, sometimes it’s an absurd spiritual journey on a train.
Anderson has, with his five films, gently tweaked old film forms with his identifiable style. With varying degrees of success, he’s done the heist movie, the fairy tale, the family drama, the adventure and the road movie.
His next movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, should come out next year. It’s a stop-motion animation film based on Roald Dahl’s darkly funny tale (did he write any other kind?). Not one to do the same thing twice, Anderson seems to be returning to the fairy tale but with a very different approach on Fox.
There won’t be the charming Houston landmarks that you might pass from time to time. But the other stuff we all have in common should be in there.