Wes Anderson Explains How He Writes and Directs Movies, and What Goes Into His Distinctive Filmmaking Style

“I do feel kind of like I’ve got my own style and voice,” Wes Ander­son says in the Direc­tor’s Chair pro­file video above. Both his fans and his crit­ics will take that as a vast under­state­ment. View­ers in the for­mer group can’t get enough time in his cin­e­mat­ic world, built out of places, cos­tumes, fonts, cul­tur­al arti­facts, and film­mak­ing tech­niques metic­u­lous­ly select­ed and arranged; view­ers in the lat­ter group see all those things as adding up to the same film over and over again. But the man who direct­ed Rush­more, The Roy­al Tenen­baums, and The Grand Budapest Hotel knows exact­ly what he’s doing, as evi­denced by inter­views and clips of him in action. “What­ev­er is com­ing from my imag­i­na­tion is inspired by my back­ground and my own psy­chol­o­gy,” he says. “With­out me con­trol­ling it or choos­ing to, I’m in the movies.”

In a Stu­dio Binder break­down of Ander­son­’s style, SC Lan­nom encap­su­lates what Ander­son does as “direct-direct­ing.” In oth­er words, “laced through­out his films are nuanced pro­duc­tion design ele­ments and visu­al gags, but exe­cut­ed in such a delib­er­ate man­ner that the view­er always ‘catch­es’ these lit­tle east­er eggs that inform our mood.” His audi­ence “knows what he wants them to know,” “sees what he wants them to see,” and “feels what he wants them to feel.” The aver­age Hol­ly­wood hack might use this direc­to­r­i­al super­pow­er to for­mu­la­ic and cyn­i­cal ends, but Ander­son goes his own way. “The Wes Ander­son style is Wes Ander­son him­self,” Lan­nom writes. “A hard-work­ing, thought­ful human who is focused on his imag­i­na­tion. His visu­als are an exten­sion of his own psy­chol­o­gy. Ander­son is those clothes, those Zis­sou Adi­das, those record play­ers… those mem­o­ries.”

Grow­ing up in Texas, Ander­son first dreamed of becom­ing an archi­tect, then a writer. Though he has end­ed up devot­ing his life to film, those ear­ly inter­ests in mas­ter­ing space and nar­ra­tive clear­ly nev­er left him — nor has the porous­ness between imag­i­na­tion and real­i­ty that char­ac­ter­izes child­hood. “Wes Ander­son tells sto­ries from the per­spec­tive of a 12-year-old boy,” Lan­nom writes. “More specif­i­cal­ly, he tells sto­ries from his per­spec­tive as a 12-year-old. His films cap­ture the essence of a board game or sto­ry book, and the world he builds in each film resem­bles a snap­shot from his child­hood.” So do the places that con­sti­tute that world, shot in sym­met­ri­cal com­po­si­tions by his long­time direc­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy Robert Yeo­man: “Even if he is using an estab­lished loca­tion, you get the feel­ing that the whole place was built for the film, and that is not done by acci­dent.”

All this makes Wes Ander­son per­haps the most obvi­ous liv­ing exam­ple of an auteur, the kind of direc­tor who, despite work­ing with count­less col­lab­o­ra­tors, nev­er­the­less leaves an imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able aes­thet­ic and nar­ra­tive sig­na­ture on all his films. Nat­u­ral­ly, his list of influ­ences includes many auteurs before him, like Alfred Hitch­cock, Stan­ley Kubrick, Mar­tin Scors­ese, and Jean-Luc Godard. And though “learn­ing from Ander­son is one of the most impor­tant things you can do as a film­mak­er,” Lan­nom writes, “repli­cat­ing his style is one of the more ques­tion­able things you can do as a film­mak­er.” Far bet­ter, in oth­er words, to make films that reflect the var­i­ous forces that have shaped you, what­ev­er those forces may be, than to make knock-off Wes Ander­son movies. And how does Wes Ander­son him­self regard the con­cept of the “Wes Ander­son movie”? “The more I think about it, the more con­fused I get.”

via uncrate

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Com­plete Col­lec­tion of Wes Ander­son Video Essays

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

Wes Anderson’s Cin­e­mat­ic Debt to Stan­ley Kubrick Revealed in a Side-By-Side Com­par­i­son

How the Aston­ish­ing Sushi Scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Was Ani­mat­ed: A Time-Lapse of the Month-Long Shoot

Acci­den­tal Wes Ander­son: Every Place in the World with a Wes Ander­son Aes­thet­ic Gets Doc­u­ment­ed by Red­dit

Wes Ander­son Movie Sets Recre­at­ed in Cute, Minia­ture Dio­ra­mas

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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