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Now that my Anderson mini-marathon is over (not much of a marathon really, with just four films), I can summarise: same as before. Having another look at those films confirms that Anderson to me is in a corner of film making that is called “appreciated, not loved”. Seeing “The Darjeeling Limited” again helped me understand a bit better why that may be.

For one: I tend to dislike the actors he casts. There is a lot to be said about that, but the short version is that Bill Murray is better in films not directed by Wes Anderson, that Anjelica Houston is better in films not directed by Wes Anderson, and that I just don’t like what Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are doing (in the case of all Wilsons: the way they talk I almost find physically painful and annoying). Nothing to be done about that, I guess.

On the bright side: Darjeeling Limited had Adrien Brody, and having an actor of this quality around made me feel much more affection for the film right away. Unfortunately Schwartzman and Wilson are still there, and prominently, so I did not stand a chance of really getting into that film.

Linked to this, the other problem: Anderson does comedy. Now that does not sound like a very heroic insight, but it took me this mini-marathon to understand that that’s all he’s doing. My earlier impression was that he does some sort of profound drama wrapped in and lightened up through comedic and absurdist elements. On seeing the films again I find very little drama though. Whatever there is (like a family falling apart and trying to reunite, or brothers travelling together to mend the broken bond, or the deep water director on a downward career slope), is buried under and trivialised through bits of funny, visual eccentricities, and some absurd theatre. So it’s comedy guided by a bit of drama, rather than drama elevated by comedic elements. And unfortunately, I don’t like most kinds of movie comedy, and I do not very much share Anderson’s sense of plot humour (even though I find his visual humour often has a touch of genius, I want to have a Dalmatian mouse!).

Darjeeling Limited is more interesting in that it does not feature Anderson’s perennial voice-over narrator device, which I find tedious in most films, and found particularly tedious in the couple of Anderson films I saw this week. The film also has some form of plot in the form of the brothers’ train trip to reassemble what’s lost in their family structure, it has some twists and turn to distract them from this quest, a very (very!) pretty Indian train attendant and a cleverly used, not over-used, exotic setting.

But despite all this, the films trods along in a dreamy fashion, not just literally often with slow motion shots, but overall conveying the slow motion that you may find in not very exciting dreams. And as it was so clear in Darjeeling, I realised this is also something I do not find too appealing as a motif in Anderson’s films: they tend to go at a slow and steady space, do not feel the need for chance of pace, because they seem quite satisfied with what they are showing. A bit overtly pleased with their own visuals, they are, is that it? Maybe. In any case, it is probably the prime reason why I never watched an Anderson film (maybe with the exception of Moonrise Kingdom) without starting to look at my watch halfway through at the latest.

And what’s weirdest of all: I now really look forward to Grand Budapest Hotel… it probably means that I like Anderson as a director, but I do not like the films he directs. A bit of an odd finding (and I do not recall any other directors where this happens), but here we go, always room for new experiences in life!

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/darjeeling_limited/

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