Wes Anderson’s Cinematic Influences: Video Series Reveals His Roots in Truffaut, Welles, Scorsese & More

substance of style
Matt Zoller Seitz is eas­i­ly one of the finest film crit­ics work­ing today. Over the years, he has done quite a lot of work unpack­ing the dense visu­al world of film­mak­er Wes Ander­son, cul­mi­nat­ing in a gor­geous cof­fee table book called, apt­ly, The Wes Ander­son Col­lec­tion. Today you can explore a series of video essays that delve into the filmmaker’s work. Zoller Seitz argues that Anderson’s dis­tinc­tive look is not mere­ly emp­ty aes­thet­ics. Instead, he asserts that there is sub­stance to Anderson’s style.

The first video out­lines three of Anderson’s biggest cin­e­mat­ic influ­ences. The filmmaker’s love of vir­tu­ous cam­era moves and pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with fall­en genius­es can be traced right back to Orson Welles. His focus on young peo­ple strug­gling to find peace in the adult world is influ­enced by Fran­cois Truf­faut, par­tic­u­lar­ly his mas­ter­piece 400 Blows. And the third, and per­haps most sur­pris­ing, influ­ence is Charles Schulz’s com­ic strip Peanuts.

In this sec­ond video, Zoller Seitz notes the styl­is­tic sim­i­lar­i­ties between Ander­son and direc­tors Mike Nichols, Richard Lester, and Mar­tin Scors­ese. It’s not ter­ri­bly hard to see traces of The Grad­u­ate or Hard Day’s Night in Anderson’s movies, but Good­fel­las? Zoller Seitz makes a pret­ty con­vinc­ing argu­ment.

While the pre­vi­ous videos come close to hagiog­ra­phy, the third video com­pares Ander­son with anoth­er obvi­ous influ­ence Hal Ash­by. It’s just about impos­si­ble to imag­ine Anderson’s delight­ful­ly twee world and dead­pan humor with­out Ashby’s Harold and Maude. Like Ander­son, Ash­by too slipped effort­less­ly between dif­fer­ent tones and dif­fer­ent gen­res. But Anderson’s movies focus exclu­sive­ly on upper class white peo­ple, some­thing that he has been fre­quent­ly crit­i­cized for. Ashby’s movies, on the oth­er hand, cast a much wider socio-eco­nom­ic net. After watch­ing this video, you get the sense that Ash­by might be the bet­ter film­mak­er.

The fourth video lays out how Anderson’s ten­den­cy of defin­ing char­ac­ters through their wardrobe goes right back to writer J.D. Salinger.

And with the fifth and final video, Zoller Seitz pulls togeth­er all of his argu­ments by anno­tat­ing the pro­logue to arguably Anderson’s best and most influ­en­tial movie, The Roy­al Tenen­baums.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Per­fect Sym­me­try of Wes Anderson’s Movies

A Glimpse Into How Wes Ander­son Cre­ative­ly Remixes/Recycles Scenes in His Dif­fer­ent Films

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

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

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

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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  • eddie cross says:

    I liked this arti­cle except for the bit about Ander­son mak­ing films only about the upper-mid­dle-class… how­ev­er he’s had plen­ty of char­ac­ters who don’t fit that descrip­tion. Rush­more’s main char­ac­ter lived in a rather small house and attend­ed Rush­more only thanks to a schol­ar­ship — Moon­rise King­dom is about an orphan who is basi­cal­ly dis­owned by his fos­ter fam­i­lies, and also fea­tures the Bruce Willis’ char­ac­ter who I would­n’t describe as doing well finan­cial­ly. And most recent­ly Grand Budapest Hotel does­n’t, in my mind, cater sole­ly to that caste. Any­way I find it a weird crit­i­cism to levy to a film­mak­er any­way.

  • Chest Rockwell says:

    I agree with Mr. Cross. Why does a direc­tor need to make movies about the low­er socio-eco­nom­ic class­es to be con­sid­ered a great film mak­er? It is an odd crit­i­cism that I think says more about the com­men­ta­tor than the direc­tor.

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