Over at Salon, Matt Zoller Seitz (freelance critic, and author of one the earliest and best profiles of Wes, and this incredible series of video essays from earlier this year) has been taking a look at some of the most influential directors of the decade in an on-going series of essays. Seitz’s latest examines the work of Robert Zemeckis and Wes Anderson.
That’s where Wes Anderson comes in. The director of “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” (2004), “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007) and this year’s Roald Dahl adaptation “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is as much a train-set filmmaker as Zemeckis, Jackson and Lucas, and like Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson (“Punch-Drunk Love,” “There Will Be Blood”), Zemeckis and Spielberg, he’s one of the few prominent Hollywood filmmakers working in the ’70s auteur tradition — and doing it with a style so distinct that it can never be stolen, only imitated. He’s notorious for fretting over every aspect of his movies, from the texture of the clothes to the precise geometric motion of each shot and camera movement to the choice of on-screen font (he prefers variations of Futura). Detractors describe his style as fussy, overcomplicated, even airless — and if one prefers a messier, more spontaneous kind of filmmaking, or a more “invisible” style of direction, Anderson is almost certainly the opposite of fun.
I won’t mount a defense of Anderson as an exciting, imaginative and important filmmaker in this article, because I’ve already done it in a series of video essays.I mention him in this piece because of two particular aspects of his art. One is his commitment to analog moviemaking. He shoots on film and prefers to do everything, special effects included, on the set rather than create them after the fact. Even when he employs digital effects or processes, he calls attention to their artificiality; think of the obviously stop-motion sea creatures in “Aquatic” — or, for that matter, the unruly, roiling fur on the creatures in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” — which the director insisted be fabricated with hard-to-manage animal hair rather than more controllable synthetic hair, because he just liked how it looked.
Be sure to read the full piece at Salon, and leave your comments below. It’s a great essay, and well worth the read.