Wes Anderson: Where would we be without him? The world would undoubtedly be a much greyer place, and those beret-wearing couples you sometimes see on the tube would probably cease to exist. The American director is regarded as a bonafide genius and a strikingly original mind by pretty much everyone on the planet. With a tonne of awards to his name, his films include The Grand Budapest Hotel, Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited and many more.
“I have a way of filming things and staging them and designing sets,” Anderson once said of his style. “There were times when I thought I should change my approach, but in fact, this is what I like to do. It’s sort of like my handwriting as a movie director. And somewhere along the way, I think I’ve made the decision: I’m going to write in my own handwriting.”
He added: “Usually when I’m making a movie, what I have in mind first, for the visuals, is how we can stage the scenes to bring them more to life in the most interesting way, and then how we can make a world for the story that the audience hasn’t quite been in before.”
In his films, Anderson captures the fundamental comedy at the very heart of human life. And he does so whilst offering up a feast for the eyes. But, of course, there is no true thing as pure originality. Everyone is influenced by someone, and originality, as writer Austin Kleon put it, is really just undetected plagiarism.
So in this article, we’ll be counting down Wes Anderson’s favourite filmmakers and examining their impact on his movies along the way.
Wes Anderson’s 5 favourite directors:
5. Akira Kurosawa
Anderson’s most recent release was the animated film Isle of Dogs. Set in a futuristic version of Japan, in which a form of canine influenza has led to every dog being exiled to ‘Trash’ Island, Anderson’s second animated venture was often described as a love letter to Japanese directors such as Hayao Miyazaki and, notably, Akira Kurosawa.
During one interview, Anderson pointed out his affection for the legendary director of Seven Samurai, saying how: “The new film is less influenced by stop-motion movies than it is by Akira Kurosawa”. Anderson has often talked of how Kurosawa’s films had a big impact on him. Certainly, Kurosawa’s knack for composing shots in the manner of a painter is one which Anderson has tried to emulate in much of his own cinematography.
4. Satyajit Ray
The movies of Satyajit Ray were basically the entire reason Wes Anderson decided to make his 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited. In one interview, he said: “I wanted to go to India and learn. I’d fallen in love with India, mainly through the films of Satyajit Ray”.
Ray is regarded as being one of the greatest directors of world cinema. His films – which include Ashani Sanket and Panther Panchali – are devastatingly beautiful. But Ray wasn’t afraid of turning his camera to the uglier aspects of Indian life. So much so, that in the ’70s, he was accused of “exporting poverty” and “distorting India’s image abroad”.
Nevertheless, he was one of the most inspiring directors of his age, with Martin Scorcese and François Truffaut citing him as a notable influence on their work. Ray also worked with Jean Renoir on one of Anderson’s favourite films The River.
3. Orson Welles
The great Orson Welles has influenced pretty much every director working today, and Wes Anderson is no different in that way.
For many, it was his use of non-linear narrative forms or his use of lighting. For Anderson, however, he was drawn in by Welle’s bold brushstrokes and the theatricality of his scripts. Of Welles, Anderson said: “He’s not particularly subtle. He likes the big effect, the very dramatic camera move, the very theatrical device. I love that”.
Indeed, Anderson adopts Welles’ exploitation of the background and foreground of a shot in films like The Royal Tennenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel to great effect.
2. Luis Bunuel
The great surrealist filmmaker was one of cinema’s earliest renegades. With Salvador Dali, he wrote and directed Un Chien Andalou in 1929, at a time when most films were made according to the rules of literature. However, with Un Chien Andalou (which is still shocking to this day), Buñuel created a uniquely filmic language – one in which meaning was conveyed through contrasting, abstract images rather than title cards.
In the past, Anderson has described Buñuel as being his “hero”: Of the great filmmaker he said: “Mike Nichols said in the newspaper he thinks of Buñuel every day, which I believe I do, too, or at least every other.”
Wes Anderson, a fanboy of sorts, says of the film The Exterminating Angel and Buñuel, “[I’ve] just watched The Exterminating Angel for the first time since fuzzy VHS in University of Texas A/V library. He is my hero. Mike Nichols said in the newspaper he thinks of Buñuel every day, which I believe I do, too, or at least every other.”
1. François Truffaut
Truffaut’s The 400 Blows is the defining film of the French New Wave.
Alongside Jean-Luc Godard, Truffaut defined a generation and changed the face of cinema. Not only did he effectively coin the term ‘auteur director’, but he also took the film camera away from the Hollywood studio and placed it in the hands of the people, on the street, in the bedroom.
For, Anderson, the French filmmaker opened up a whole new world: He has said that The 400 Blows “made a huge, rock band-type impression on me when I saw it. It’s one of those films where you say, ‘not only did I just enjoy this experience, now I think I would like to model my future on this somehow.”