Wes Anderson’s newest film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is out, and so people are openly debating the merits of his work again. I have yet to see it, but from what I’ve heard it’s more of the same — which is to say, it’s likely to continue to please his fans and continue to displease his skeptics.
Part of the wonder of a Wes Anderson film, for me, is getting to see the kind of film a designer would make given a budget, a crew and a sampling of today’s most notable celebrities. Anderson populates his movies with big name actors eager to burnish their indie cred, and he surrounds them with the accoutrements of his obsessions: obsolete technology, dubious uniforms, imaginary cartographies, naïve architecture, and more. Every single piece counts, and is placed exquisitely in relation to every other. Most filmmakers compose their frames, but it might be more accurate to say that Anderson lays his out, much the way print designers once pasted up pages in lavishly illustrated encyclopedia volumes. It’s not film direction, it’s art direction.
If anyone ever doubted my assetion then, well here is further proof — made more credible and persuasive in that it is Anderson’s own work speaking for itself. In this supercut video, courtesy of prolific supercutter (?) Kogonda, the director’s persistent preoccupation with symmetrical frame composition is revealed. Watching it is to realize how shockingly faithful Anderson is to his own design sensibilities.
For the record, this sort of aesthetic precision is catnip for me; it squares (no pun intended) nicely with my own grid-centric, orderly compositional tendencies. But as I said in my 2012 post, as much as the designer in me delights in it, the moviegoer in me feels starved by it.