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The Wes Anderson Collection Hardcover – October 8, 2013
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Max Dalton's charming children's book-style illustrations introduce each film with a double-page spread of the movie's principal location, incorporating "fourth wall" views suggested by Anderson's familiar cutaway dollhouse technique, used so well in the opening of Moonrise Kingdom and The Life Aquatic. Designer Martin Venzky unpacks the filmmaker's sources and style—with an inspired deployment of stills, amusingly corny display type, and inventive layouts with images made to resemble postage stamps, scrapbook clippings, and other collectibles—perfectly capturing Anderson's seductively twee combination of obsessive detail and ironic distance. —Christopher Lyon
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Above is basically the gist of this book. The other title really could've/should've been Anderson/Seitz ala Hitchcock/Truffaut. It's difficult actually for me to give this 4 out of 5 stars (sometimes in the book it's more like 3 and a half out of five) because I went into this so ready to think it would be like One Of The Best Books.
Perhaps I should manage my expectations better, but MZS is one of the finest critics writing today - the man is chief editor of Roger Ebert for a reason, but even if I just go by his TV review/recaps he's wonderful - and you can get a strong sense of his gift for analysis and depth and insight in the essays that precede the eight films discussed here (it was written and published just prior to Grand Budapest Hotel, which is just hinted at).
So, Seitz is a terrific writer. As an interviewer... he's ok. Actually, maybe more than okay in parts. His main aim here is to get Wes Anderson, one of the true independent mainstream American directors working today (that, you know, gets major stars for his movies, basically a younger Scorsese in that he gets to do it HIS way bankrolled by the big studios, usually anyway) to talk about what goes into the mix in his pudding. Sometimes he gets some good insight into just behind the scenes nuggets - casting, like Gene Hackman and some of the difficulty on Tenenbaums initially, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, George Clooney - and things like finding certain locations, finding music...
Where it gets tricky and slippery is when Seitz inserts himself into the interviews. Arguably, he does it a bit too much, sometimes bringing his own kids into what they thought of the movies or certain stories. Of course there are reasons for this, to try and bridge the personal into the theoretical, or thematic. Maybe this isn't all Seitz's fault that Anderson tends to get cagey at times with his answers (the aforementioned 'Hmms', of which there are at least, I didn't count 20 here throughout).
Anderson reminds me in a way like David Lynch: a true artist, he can talk about things that went into the making of his movies, things that sort of inspire him - other movies, music, art, striking locations - but when it comes to themes or deeper meanings in ideas, things that tie the films together (such as for Anderson's movies, "What is a family?" is a directly related question), he just can't go there. Or maybe the way MZS expresses it isn't quite clear enough for Anderson. Or the tension is just too palpable to really dig farther in. Or, frankly, the context isn't the greatest.
And I get that. But there are other times the questions just seem to be Seitz reaching a bit far into the hat to pull something out to try to get something else out of Anderson. And yet, this is a complaint that is... I'd say only about 15 to 20% of a book that is otherwise pretty darn awesome. It's LOADED with photographs, storyboard images, stills, behind the scenes stuff, film comparisons, even stamps from Citizen Kane (!) that make it into like a Big Movie Book, which also brings the comparison up to the Godfather of Movie Books, Hitchcock/Truffaut. Anderson is amiable and can express things well enough and it's a fun, quick read.
While I wish some of the things MZS reaches for and expresses weren't quite always AS about him, he mostly steers everything in the right direction which is about process, how a director who does have such control over his movies - I can't see how he could work any other way with the stories and characters he creates, along with his co-writers and collaborators - goes about creating what he does. But, ultimately, the book also illustrates that no matter how much you pick at something you can really only get out of a filmmaker: "I just like it" and that's it. At a certain point we can be critics all we want. It's ours now. And for his reasons... they're so many. And, naturally, it'll be essential reading for Anderson fans, and those just looking to get a sense of what filmmaking at a personal-cum-commercial level is all about in this day and age.
But on the other hand...
"I think, often, what ends up being important in a movie thematically, or what it ends up being really about, is usually not what you're focusing on. You're focusing on what a certain character is going to say, what this character wants from this other character, how they feel, and how she's going to express what she wants, and what's going to happen, you know? And as with everything else in life or writing or filmmaking, you don't really control what it means - my instinct is that I don't want to control it, because it's better if it just comes to life, in whatever way that can happen. And everything else, everything feels like it has to be created for one of these movies, so I'd rather have the meanings come out of the life of it, rather than wanting to demonstrate a certain theme, or communicate a certain theory." - Wes Anderson on themes
"Sammy, I don't talk about themes." - David Lynch.
As far as looks, this book is large and heavy (which I like). I believe it's 1 square foot and maybe 1.5-2 inches thick. It would make a lovely coffee table book if your coffee table is tidier than mine. I ordered this book with Amazon Prime two-day shipping and on the second day, I woke up to find it at my door. Wonderful service, as usual.
I can't recommend this enough. If you enjoy the whimsical worlds that Anderson creates, this book is more of the same. Wonderful.
Anderson doesn't release many films....this book shows you why. The level of craftsmanship and detail put into each production can only be accomplished with many months of time and effort. The settings, atmosphere, camera angles, lighting, and overall ambiance are just as important as the screenplay and the casting. This book meticulously plots the steps involved in each production. My only regret is that the book was released before The Grand Budapest Hotel; that would have made for an interesting chapter. Still, this book will make a much-perused volume in the library of any Anderson aficionado or film buff.