Regular readers may already know that I am not a fan of the films of Wes Anderson.
However, in fairness, I’ve only actually seen two of his films; I found both Bottle Rocket and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou to be pretty, but shockingly boring films populated by implausible characters.
In spite of this, I am somewhat interested in seeing both The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom. Both films are sort of right on the edge of The List of Movies I’ve Been Meaning to See, Eventually. I keep hearing good things about them, and their trailers certainly make them look good. Of course I’ve been burned that way before.
Nevertheless, since I’m committed to watching One Movie Each Day now, I figure that I should give this renowned filmmaker another shot. So, the name of preparing myself, I decided to ease into the world of Wes Anderson with his 2007 short film Hotel Chevalier.
When I sat down to watch this movie, I was thinking that I’d be the prelude to watching another Anderson film, but I didn’t think it’d be the one that I now think it will be. See, I know now that the film was produced as a stand-alone prologue to The Darjeeling Limited, but I didn’t discover that until the credits rolled. Being the completist that I am, there’s a good chance that film will be coming soon to this very blog.
Hotel Chevalier, while only 13 minutes long, and set entirely in a Paris hotel room, is every bit a Wes Anderson movie. There’s the odd camera angles, quick cuts, and obnoxiously quirky dialogue. However, it does also have Natalie Portman, and she’s really quite naked by the end, so it’s got that going for it.
Jason Shwartzman (of course) plays Jack, a guy clearly dealing with some depression, who is living in a Paris hotel room, and ordering grilled cheese from room service, when he receives a call from a woman, clearly his ex-girlfriend (Portman), who informs him that she’s in Paris and she’s coming over. So from there we have a plot, and some cleverly arranged Portman nudity.
I wouldn’t say the plot is all that interesting, it’s all subtext and angst and nuance and minor cruelty, and hints at things from characters we only barely meet, but in the end Natalie Portman gets really quite naked.
In fact, much has been made of Natalie Portman’s extended nude scene in the film, and it’s actually done with a bit of class. It’s sort of like the humor in Anderson’s films; I could definitely tell that it was there, but the good parts were deliberately obscured so I couldn’t really see them.
I set out to watch this short to see if, having been reviewing movies for a while, my opinion of cinephile-favorite Wes Anderson had changed at all. I’m pretty sure that it hasn’t. To me it just seems like the guy spends too much time building beautiful nothings, that aren’t worth said time. I’m convinced that many of the people that proudly proclaim that they love his films, couldn’t possibly love the contrived quirkiness nearly that much. I suspect that these people just “like” Wes Anderson because they like to feel clever.
I think that, on some level, I want to like these movies. I like movies that are clever, and visually striking, and a little different. I like to express opinions that make me feel clever. I think the problem I have with Anderson is that his films are just so obviously, deliberately and excessively going for these traits that I just find the whole body of work somewhat disingenuous.
That said, having seen this film I suppose I’m now interested in watching The Darjeeling Limited, if only in the hope that it’ll provide some insight into what was going on in here. So I suppose in that light, the film accomplished its goal. The bottom line, this film is only just barely, by the slightest of margins, worth seeing. Now if you consider that this rating takes into account that the film features Natalie Portman naked for a good chunk of its 13 minute running time, you might consider that a pretty weak assessment. Thus remains my opinion of the films of Wes Anderson.