Icons / November 2016

A World of His Own: Wes Anderson

From Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson’s contribution to modern cinema brings colour, fantasy and style to a unique formula that equals brilliance.
Wes Anderson, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004). Photo by Philippe Antonello/Touchstone/REX/Shutterstock.

‘Wes Anderson’ is not a name that generally goes unnoticed in a conversation. Those that don’t have an opinion offer up intrigue, awe and occasionally confusion, because even Martin Scorsese called him, well, the next Martin Scorsese.

A genteel character, unassuming and fame-retardant, Anderson is the polar opposite of the clichéd director who spotted his name on the back of a chair once and has since seen it as a throne. He stutters endearingly through interviews, as though he can’t quite put into words this world inside his head, the same world he attempts to shed light on in film. Hugo Guinness once explained, “He doesn’t like a lot of attention. He wants to get on with the job of making films”, and Anderson himself eschews reading reviews, seeing them only as a ‘distraction’.

His extraordinary eye for detail, unusual use of camera angles and ingenious art direction are just part of the complex formula that adds up to some of the most colourful, imaginative and idiosyncratic pieces of modern cinema. The childlike sensibility of his films is echoed in the actors themselves, who are often quizzical, scowling, straight-talking pre-teens, the self-inflicted limited colour palette on set lending to the effect of being in a doll’s house, his hand-made miniatures undeniably nostalgic.

Anderson is renowned for his stylistic approach to shooting, repeatedly using obsessively symmetrical compositions, snap zooms and flat space camera moves. His films are recognisable at a glance as a result, but his unique construction of surreal or ‘fabulist’ stories means ‘a glance’ is simply never enough. Not only does Anderson possess a unique sense of style on camera, but also behind it. Rarely spotted out of a corduroy suit (his New York tailor known simply as ‘Mr Ned’) he is the walking embodiment of his artistic vision. Indeed, the outfit of his character Mr Fox (of the Fantastic variety) is based specifically on a favourite of Anderson’s which he wears “200 days a year”. I can’t help but applaud his unflappable commitment to corduroy – this is his uniform, and he rocks it in shades of ochre, tan, saffron and forest green like no one else.

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Anna Prendergast

Anna is a freelance writer and former staffer at The Rake. She is passionate about travel, well made clothes and homemade chocolate chip cookies.