30 May 2012

MOONRISE KINGDOM (Dir. Wes Anderson, 2012, US) - Welcome to WesWorld

Everyone wants to work with Wes Anderson!
I don’t like critical euphemisms such as ‘return to form’ because it implies certain filmmakers like Wes Anderson lost their directorial mojo when in fact form really is what critics enjoy doing – pinning down a filmmaker for their distinctive traits or film school inspired mannerisms. So in many ways Moonrise Kingdom is a continuation of aesthetic, thematic and narrative preoccupations – deviations or departures along the way such as Fantastic Mr. Fox are a necessary part of the evolutionary creative process. The world of Wes Anderson is ordered, pristine and meticulously compartmentalised to create a sense of compositional harmony within the precise framing. His mise en scene is impeccably cinematic in the imaginative use of costumes, colours, props and lighting – his approach is much simpler than it appears on screen. Even less extravagant or stylistically exuberant is the camera placement which sees characters regularly moving in and out of the frame and director Anderson rather opts for the camera to literally seek out the characters who usually make their own close ups. The effect of course is reminiscent of the films of Buster Keaton in which all elements become theatrically staged and perhaps at times a little too mechanical for us to sympathise with the dilemmas faced by the characters. Another observation about Wes Anderson and his fellow contemporaries such as Sofia Coppola is not just their connection to the American new wave of the 1970s or the Nouvelle vague but to the counter culture movement of the 1960s. Strangely enough many of Anderson’s films have little, if any, kind of a link with the wider context – much of the narrative action unfolds in a reality which is somewhat disconnected from real politics. Moonrise Kingdom is set in 1965, a time in which America was a turbulent place, but this is Wes world so everything is filtered through a childlike innocence that fetishes 1960s cultural iconography. Retro fetishism can be distracting but it is such idiosyncratic details that give Anderson’s films such a whimsical and affectionate vibe. The narrative of Moonrise Kingdom is that of a melodrama in which teen angst/romance is juxtaposed to family. The plot involves two twelve year olds who fall in love and decide to run away, creating a mini panic on the island. A search headed by the local law enforcement and a troop of boy scouts leads to the revelation that the boy at the centre of the action is in fact an orphan with serious emotional problems. An aspect of the film that intrigued me the most was the mirroring device that sees the two children acting out the repressed romance between two of the adults. In this sense the narrative goes in reverse and the ending in which the two children seem to be acting out the parent’s childhood romance is beautifully judged as is the use of Benjamin Britten on the soundtrack. Overall, it’s the design that remains with you more than everything else, a design that can only come from the mind of Wes Anderson. On a final point; a great ensemble cast can also be a helpful thing to any filmmaker.

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