Wes Anderson’s Favorite Films

Wes Anderson’s lat­est, The Grand Budapest Hotel, opens this week and next in select­ed the­aters, and reviews of the film seem to fol­low what at this point in the director’s career almost feels like a tem­plate: dis­cuss the odd­i­ties and per­fec­tions of Anderson’s stal­wart band of actors (always Bill Mur­ray, natch, and often a stand­out young new­com­er); dis­sect the use of music as a kind of mood ring for the dead­pan dia­logue; mar­vel at the intri­cate scenery and cos­tum­ing; frost with a thesaurus’s worth of vari­a­tions on the word “quirky.”

The Guardian gives us descrip­tors like “nos­tal­gia-tint­ed” and “gen­tly charm­ing.” NPR writes “weird and won­der­ful,” “a tum­ble down a rab­bit hole,” and “like a trio of Russ­ian nest­ing dolls.” And Dave Itzkoff in The New York Times refers to the film’s “pas­tel col­or schemes, baroque cos­tumes and del­i­cate pas­tries.” Itzkoff goes fur­ther and won­ders what we might find if we opened up Anderson’s head. Among oth­er options, he imag­ines “a junk draw­er crammed with kite string, Swiss Army knives, and remote-con­trolled toys” and “a well-orga­nized tack­le box.”

The Times review comes clos­est to evok­ing the tac­tile and hyper-spe­cif­ic Ander­son­ian mise-en-scène, but few of his review­ers, it seems, dare attempt the dif­fi­cult task of fit­ting the film­mak­er into cin­e­ma his­to­ry. Were we to chart the aes­thet­ic inter­con­nec­tions of a few-hun­dred well-known auteurs, just where, exact­ly, would we put Wes Ander­son? It’s a lit­tle hard to say—the worlds he cre­ates feel sui gener­is, sprung ful­ly formed from his “junk draw­er, tack­le box” of a mind. While his work has cer­tain affini­ties with con­tem­po­rary styl­ists like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, it also seems to emerge, like an iso­lat­ed only child, from (writes Itzkoff) “a mem­o­ry palace assem­bled ad hoc from brown­stone apart­ments, under­ground caves and sub­ma­rine com­part­ments.”

But of course, like every artist, Ander­son has many con­nec­tions to his­to­ry and tra­di­tion, and works through his influ­ences to make them his own. And he hasn’t been shy about nam­ing his favorite films and direc­tors. In fact, the Texas-born film­mak­er has com­piled sev­er­al lists of favorites in the past cou­ple years. Below, find excerpts culled from three such lists.

From Rot­ten Toma­toes’Five Favorite Films with Wes Ander­son.”

Asked about his five favorite movies, Ander­son quipped, “you may have to call it ‘The five movies that I just say, for what­ev­er rea­son’… the five I man­age to think up right now.” Here are the “top three” of that arbi­trary list:

Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polan­s­ki, 1968): “This has always been a big influ­ence on me, or a source of ideas; and it’s always been one of my favorites.”

A Clock­work Orange (Stan­ley Kubrick, 1971): “It’s a movie that’s very par­tic­u­lar­ly designed and, you know, con­jures up this world that you’ve nev­er seen quite this way in a movie before.”

Trou­ble in Par­adise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932): “I don’t know if any­body can make a movie like that anymore—that per­fect tone, like a “soufflé”-type of move. A con­fec­tion, I guess.”

From the New York Dai­ly News’ “Wes Anderson’s 10 Favorite New York Movies.”

Ander­son, says the Dai­ly News, “always fan­cied him­self a New York­er” even before he’d set foot in Man­hat­tan. Below are a few of his top films set in his adopt­ed city (Rosemary’s Baby is num­ber 7).

4. Moon­struck (Nor­man Jew­i­son, 1987): “I’ve always loved this script. It’s a very well-done Hol­ly­wood take on New York.”

6. Sweet Smell of Suc­cess (Alexan­der Mack­endrick, 1957): “Here’s a clas­sic sta­ple of New York movies. The look of it is this dis­tilled black-and-white New York and Clif­ford Odets writes great dia­logue.”

8. Next Stop, Green­wich Vil­lage (Paul Mazursky, 1976): “I saw the movie many years ago and I don’t real­ly remem­ber much oth­er than lov­ing it. I love Paul Mazursky’s films. He’s a New York­er who is a great writer-direc­tor.”

From the Cri­te­ri­on Collection’s “Wes Anderson’s Top 10.”

Ander­son pref­aces this list with: “I thought my take on a top-ten list might be to sim­ply quote myself from the brief fan let­ters I peri­od­i­cal­ly write to the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion team.” Here are a few of his picks:

1. The Ear­rings of Madame de… (Max Ophuls, 1953): “Max Ophuls made a per­fect film.”

4. The Tak­ing of Pow­er by Louis XIV (Rober­to Rosselli­ni, 1966): “The man who plays Louis can­not give a con­vinc­ing line read­ing, even to the ears of some­one who can’t speak French—and yet he is fas­ci­nat­ing…. What does good act­ing actu­al­ly mean? Who is this Tag Gal­lagher?”

7. Classe tous risques (Claude Sautet, 1960): “I am a great fan of Claude Sautet, espe­cial­ly Un coeur en hiv­er.”

10. The Exter­mi­nat­ing Angel (Luis Buñuel, 1962): “He is my hero. Mike Nichols said in the news­pa­per he thinks of Buñuel every day, which I believe I do, too, or at least every oth­er.”

So there you have… at least some of it (I am sur­prised to find no Georges Méliès). Depend­ing on your famil­iar­i­ty with Anderson’s choic­es, a perusal of his favorites’ lists may give you some spe­cial appre­ci­a­tion of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Then again, it may just be the case that the only real con­text for any Wes Ander­son film is oth­er Wes Ander­son films.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Wes Anderson’s Charm­ing New Short Film, Castel­lo Cav­al­can­ti, Star­ring Jason Schwartz­man

Bill Mur­ray Intro­duces Wes Anderson’s Moon­rise King­dom (And Plays FDR In Decem­ber)

Watch 7 New Video Essays on Wes Anderson’s Films: Rush­more, The Roy­al Tenen­baums & More

Wes Anderson’s First Short Film: The Black-and-White, Jazz-Scored Bot­tle Rock­et (1992)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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