The magical imagination of American filmmaker Wes Anderson has bewitched audiences for decades, leading to some of the most vibrant films of modern cinema, from the comedy-caper ingenuity of Bottle Rocket to the charming grace of The French Dispatch. Occupying a significant space among the very best contemporary American filmmakers ever since his 1996 debut, modern Hollywood wouldn’t look quite the same without the quirky influence of Anderson.
Praised for his meticulous, idiosyncratic form of filmmaking, mimicked and copied by dozens of directors and artists across the globe, Anderson draws attention to the craft of cinema as well as the iconic actors who occupy its space. Often collaborating with the same Hollywood faces, the director has built quite the dedicated crew of actors, including the likes of Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton and Jason Schwartzman.
Delicately building his own style across two decades of work, Anderson is heavily inspired by the romance of classic cinema, imbuing the same sense of style into many of his films. A lover of the Polish-French director Roman Polanski, German-American filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch, the enigmatic Jean Renoir and the classic Hollywood filmmaker Mike Nichols, Anderson held a particular fondness for several European filmmakers.
Included in this mix of European cinema maestros was the German-French director Max Ophüls, the mastermind behind the opulent 1953 film The Earrings of Madame de…, a quintessential favourite of Wes Anderson’s.
In conversation with Criterion, the Moonrise Kingdom director articulated his passion for the movie, calling the writer of the original novel, Louise de Vilmorin, “mesmerising and charming and unlike anybody you’ve ever met”. Telling a magical story following an aristocratic woman who sells a pair of earrings given to her by her husband, only for the fate of the earrings themselves to set off a chain reaction, it’s no surprise Wes Anderson is such a fan.
“Max Ophuls made a perfect film,” Anderson emphatically exclaims, embracing the vibrancy of the classic 1953 movie. In a separate interview with the publication, Anderson states “there’s nothing I’ve seen before these films that compares or comes close, but it’s obvious to me now that these stories sunk into my DNA of how to tell a story…this is probably the first time I was seeing anything like this”.
Playing cat-and-mouse with his own possessions, the film follows a general who buys a pair of earrings for his wife known only as ‘Madame de…’, before she in-turn sells them, only for them to find their way back to the general months later. This creates a highly-enjoyable, romantic drama with some nicely realised comedic moments threaded throughout, all whilst Ophüls effortlessly pioneers the feeling of a transient camera.
This distinct style makes the story feel like a fleeting romance caught in suspended animation, if only it lasted longer than 105 minutes…
Take a look at the trailer for the classic film Wes Anderson calls “perfect”, below.