Perhaps no director working today has been more misunderstood than Wes Anderson. Criticisms that his movies are superficial—favoring impressive set design and a highly mannered style over emotional substance—have mounted in recent years. But, as we will explore in this course, Anderson’s earlier films demonstrate his ability to connect his cinematic eye with genuine and often profound humanism that continues to be the backbone of his more fantastical current work.
Anderson began his feature-film career with the crime caper Bottle Rocket (1996), which Martin Scorsese called one of his ten favorite films of the 1990s, saying it “convey[s] the simple joys and interactions between people so well and with such richness.” But it was not until Rushmore (1998), about the emotional baggage behind its characters’ outward personas, that a cult began to form around Anderson’s finely tuned vision of the world. Its success allowed for a large cast of A-list actors to sign on for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), a masterpiece about the importance of family in the face of life’s myriad difficulties. The course will close with what may be Anderson’s most polarizing film, The Darjeeling Limited (2006), a parable about expanding one’s interpersonal and global perspective in order to see what truly matters.
Today, Wes Anderson may be best known for films about talking animals or fictional European hotels, but his earlier work is essential to understanding where his priorities have always been—the empathy behind his immaculate style. Join us as we explore the human side of one of today’s greatest auteurs.