Anderson made the short film Hotel Chevalier as a prologue to The Darjeeling Limited.
We’ll start with this:
I always feel a little conflicted about Wes Anderson films – I generally like them, but feel like it’s some sort of guilty pleasure, I think because the jokes and visual aesthetics are so perfectly hip and ironic, and indulging in them makes me feel like an early 2000s Williamsburg hipster.
This love / hate feeling of mine extends beyond the aesthetics and humor to the characters, who are all somehow fuckups or somewhat despicable. In this interview with the Guardian about The Life Aquatic, Anderson says of his characters:
“I am not trying to make them naturalistic or normal in any way. I am trying to come up with characters surprising to people and surprising to me. People who like weird people, I guess, are more likely to like my films than people who call people weirdoes.”
“Those are guys who lack some basic level of human decency, they have done some unforgivable things. I have some compassion for them. I am interested in people with those kinds of faults and who turn it around. But I certainly don’t want to be one. That is the last thing I would want to be.”
Most of the protagonists are horrible fathers or mothers or friends in some way, but we generally encounter them confronting some sort of grief, depression, or despair.
By evoking our pity for even the fuckups and antiheroes, Anderson gets to acknowledge our shared humanity with even them, pointing at some sort of universal, of, perhaps, suffering.
I often find some sort of solace in the denouement of Anderson’s films, like the letter to Grace at the end of Bottle Rocket:
Dear Grace, I enjoyed your letter. I agree Camp Douglas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It never was. But if you’re feeling lonely or homesick even I recommend that (1) You call me. I’m staying at Bob Mapplethorpe’s and (2) that you keep extremely busy. It’s working for me…
I’ve got a whole new program. Bob and I get up at 5:30 every morning to run our paper route. We’ve got three jobs. The money isn’t much, and Bob in particular isn’t suited for this kind of work. But we keep each other company, and we both feel much better about ourselves now that we’re working hard.
I’m also coaching a little league soccer team called the Hurricanes. They’re mostly beginners, but they’ve got a lot of spirit, and they don’t let defeat get them down. They remind me of Dignan in that way. Say what you will about him, he’s no cynic and he’s no quitter. I’m usually so exhausted now at the end of the days that I don’t have to time to think about blown opportunities or wasted time. I do have one bit of advice for you, though Grace. Take the time in school to learn a foreign language. I myself never did , and I feel I’ve paid a price for it. Well, so long Grace. I miss you very much. Don’t forget to write me back. Anthony.
I find similarly comforting this scene at the end of The Darjeeling Limited, which I had forgotten about until I read the screenplay to prep for this evening.
PATRICIA All right. Let's make an agreement: A.) We'll get an early start tomorrow morning and try to enjoy each others' company here in this beautiful place. B.) We'll stop feeling sorry for ourselves. It's not very attractive. C.) We'll make our plans for the future. Can we agree to that?
It seems like a good plan (although, Patricia’s departure without any goodbye the following morning leaves us wondering how we should take her words).
Doing homework for this post, I came across the short film Bottle Rocket (which later became a feature film of the same length). Wes Anderson did this with Owen and Luke Wilson back in 1994 for Sundance – it was really cool to see where it all started:
And, via the aforementioned interview in the Guardian about The Life Aquatic:
“I liked your film … seriously,” some sycophantic fashionista says to Zissou at the calamitous opening of his latest documentary. “I could have done without the seriously,” he replies.