You may have noticed certain brands, over the past decade or so, going for a “Wes Anderson aesthetic” in their advertisements. But as all the younger filmmakers Anderson inspires inevitably find out, replicating the director’s signature mise-en-scène — the distinctive color palettes, the rigorous geometry, the carefully curated objects — is no easy task. To achieve the cinematically Andersonian, it seems you really need Anderson himself. Fortunately for certain marketing departments, the auteur of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and other pictures (including the upcoming The French Dispatch) has occasionally made himself available for commercial work.
But as anyone who has seen one or two of Anderson’s movies might expect, the man appears to have little interest in making straightforward commercials. Even when directing short spots for the likes of American Express or Stella Artois, Anderson brings us into his very own aesthetic and cultural realm: in the former he satirizes a certain idea of his own process on set, and in the latter he creates comedy from his penchant for (and mastery of) early-1960s European design. In other instances he’s taken the opportunity to indulge his cinephilia more directly than usual, as in his Jacques Tati-inspired commercial for Japanese cellphone service provider SoftBank. You can see all these and more on our Youtube playlist of eight of Anderson’s short films.
Commercial directors often discuss their projects in the same terms they would use to discuss short films. But it seems that every time Anderson makes a commercial, he really does make a short film. Sometimes he makes both: after he directed a 44-second ad for Prada, he went on with the fashion house’s sponsorship to direct the seven-minute Castello Cavalcanti. But ever since making the thirteen-minute black-and-white short that would become his debut feature Bottle Rocket, Anderson has also used short films in service of his long ones. Cousin Ben’s Troop Screening makes for a fun introduction to Moonrise Kingdom; Hotel Chevalier is practically required viewing before The Darjeeling Limited. Both remind us that, however solid the work a brand can get out of him, Wes Anderson promotes nothing quite as delightfully as he promotes Wes Anderson. Watch the playlist of 8 commercials and short films here.
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.