Understanding Wes Anderson

Image Source: http://www.dewildliferescue.com/injured.htmlI wish that Bill Murray would come and explain Wes Anderson movies to me. As the star of several such films, I feel he would be eminently qualified to answer my reservations. Mr. Anderson would, of course, be a better source of explanation, but I think all would agree that he is too close to the subject for a truly objective explanation.

I believe Mr. Murray would come in on the Northeast Regional Amtrak train, as he is not a pretentious man, and would enjoy the opportunity to travel incognito among less notable commuters. The Northeast Regional which leaves New York City at 2:02PM, and arrives in Baltimore at 4:32PM. This would give him ample time to sit and discuss the as-yet unrecognized genius while allowing time for questions and perhaps a congenial dinner.

I believe he would arrive at my door at around 4:45, allowing time for a taxi ride. He would likely appear without preamble, his knock at the door a simple three-rap job. His own comedy is understated and would not be improved by a “shave and a haircut” knock. He would be dressed in corduroy slacks and a brown dinner jacket, with a T-shirt underneath that read, “Who you gonna call?” He would look blankly at me, with eyes that held a sad understanding.

I would open the door to some surprise, although I would be unlikely to show it. Whether through shock or a desire to not make him uncomfortable, I would simply stand with my hand on the doorknob until he announced himself and his intentions. I would introduce myself and we would shake hands without either of us leaning in at all.

At that point, I would invite him in and introduce him to my family. My wife and child, standing in a line behind me, would nod solemnly as they are introduced, and then move on to their own separate interests. I would ask Mr. Murray if he had any interest in libations. He would insist that I call him Bill.

Unaccustomed as I am to visitors of rarified quality, my store of drinks would seem somewhat limited. I could offer water, Dr. Pepper, ginger ale, Bacardi, or a pomegranate Naked Juice. The glass of milk would be held back, as I would never take chances with any drink that ages. He would accept the Bacardi and Dr. Pepper, insisting that he drinks the stuff quite often, and was not driving home in any event. We would laugh for a short moment, in polite recognition of the joke.

We would sit across from each other at the dinner table, a framed portrait of Chester A. Arthur hanging from the wall between us. Our hands flat on the table, a bottle of rum between us, he would begin to explain.

He would tell me that it was not my fault or my love of Hollywood blockbusters that makes me unable to understand Wes Anderson movies. Nor would he claim that it is due to my technical background, with a lack of artistic education.

Instead, he would say that the reason I have difficulty understanding Wes Anderson movies is that I have learned the language of movies and am confused by films that stray from common narratives. This is more than an expectation of “love conquers all” or “science vs. nature”. This is the basic language of heroes and villains. More basic than that, it is the language of plot. The very idea that each part of a story must push the story forward is an accepted conceit of most films.

He would explain to me that a life truly lived does not follow any previous story. Life is not clear. It is not concise, and it does not move in a straight line. He would refer to my child’s pet turtle that crawls past the table.

The turtle has only three legs, although we suspect it has a fourth that it never reveals to the world. He would show that there is nothing inherently interesting about a turtle with three legs. In fact, there is something rather sad about it. However, when one sees it walking along as though it doesn’t recognize its own infirmity, there is something noble in the simple action. The smallest problems, like knitting socks for a three-legged turtle, can seem both useful and absurd at the same time.

That, he would explain to me, is the art behind Wes Anderson’s films. It is not that he eschews standard plotting, or that his characters seem stilted. It is the fact that the do the mundane in the face of realistic absurdities that makes them extraordinary. He would then look down at the shot glass between his hands, and I would pour the drink. Staring at each other, he would pop the top of the Dr. Pepper, and take a slow sip. He would then down the rum, and place the shot glass back on the table, exactly where it had been.

 

We would stand up and I would show him to the door. When we got there, I would extend a hand and thank him. He would look at the hand for a long moment, then gingerly take it in both of his. He would turn and walk to the cab, a new one that I had called prior to the visit. I would switch off the porch light as the cab left.

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