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The Reeler Blog

Anderson Un-Limited

Wes Anderson on the India set of The Darjeeling Limited (Photo: Fox Searchlight)

By Ben Gold

The rap on Wes Anderson is that of a director who has become better known for his visual eccentricities than the success of his films. But much has changed since his maligned maritime 2005 epic The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; if Aquatic is the culmination of a filmmaker’s infatuation with art-directed peculiarity, then Anderson's latest, the India-set bonding-brother dramedy The Darjeeling Limited, is where things begin to come back down to earth.

In fact, Anderson told The Reeler during an interview this week, Darjeeling could be seen as a reaction to The Life Aquatic. "Aquatic was a very hard movie to make," he said. "We shot for a hundred days. People were always warning me that you don’t want to do a movie on the water. And I was just like, 'Wait and see what we’re going to do.' But it ended up being very difficult. [On a boat] weather can change so suddenly, and small things can become giant problems. And I’ve never been in a situation before when two thirds of the day I was thinking, 'We’re going to leave today without anything, and we’re going to end the day having spent $300,000.' "

Anderson was determined to make the new film faster and on a smaller budget -- a combination he said just felt "right." Gone are the director's hyper-stylized sets -- the impeccably detailed rooms of the Tenenbaum mansion, the various laboratories and cabins of Zissou’s boat -- which were at best elements of charming magical realism and at worst cluttered distractions. Instead, Anderson takes advantage of India’s lush if unpredictable environment, often brings the film outdoors, removing his characters from the extravagant panoramas he is known for.

"What I enjoyed the most about [India] were the things I couldn’t control," he said. "Because I’m pretty good at controlling it all, and India is a place where you can’t control [anything]. And my theory with the movie was, 'OK, we left last night and the hut was brown, and today we’re here and we can call see it’s been painted blue, so we’re going to film that.' That’s an exact thing that happened."

There is still a healthy shot of Anderson-esque quirk, such as Marc Jacobs-designed animal print luggage, the eponymous blue train and a stop-motion tiger -- trademark Anderson-isms that would surely be noticed if missing. But their usage is restrained, pared down to fit the more intimate production -- accessories really, with the focus placed squarely on the characters: For the first time in a long time, Anderson in full.

Posted at September 28, 2007 12:33 AM

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