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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Irksome quirksome

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2007 at 9:59 PM

click to enlarge wes2.jpg

(photo © 2007 Fox Searchlight Pictures)

There was something innocent and a little broken in Wes Anderson’s films. I responded to his Peter Pan characters not anxious to grow up and the story-book-for-grown-ups character of The Royal Tenenbaums. But first with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and now with The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson has lost me. Perhaps it’s because what once seemed like a beguiling personal style has now revealed itself to be a weird fixation on his aristocratic, stunted characters, and a set design that once seemed charming but now looks like lifestyle advertising. In Darjeeling, that style-over-substance approach seems to assert itself at every point, and the Marc Jacobs-designed Louis Vuitton luggage often struck me as a more viable character than the navel-gazing drips played by Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody. But the thing that irked me the most was how flagrantly colonialist and obliviously American Anderson’s characters suddenly felt plunked down in impoverished India with their bickering, ingestion of the local pharmaceuticals, sex with the pretty “help” and spiritual awakening on foreign soil. The film too often reminded me of the funny-but-irritatingly xenophobic Lost in Translation, which also reduced its Japanese characters to exotic ciphers and cartoonish blank slates in Sofia Coppola’s hands: a backdrop for the psychodramas of the American characters.

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