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Caleb Pearson
September 3, 2020

Breaking Down Wes Anderson's Distinct Style

With innumerable accolades to his name, Wes Anderson is no stranger to cinematography enthusiasts. His films, the Moonrise Kingdom and the Grand Budapest Hotel, not only announced his triumphant entry but also went on to sweep a series of Academy Awards.

The works earned him both envy and admiration in equal measure from both his peers and fans. Wes Anderson's visuals and signature styles have become recognizable and well-studied within the film community.

Contrary to how most would expect, Wes Anderson had a pretty uneventful and straightforward upbringing. Born to a realtor father and a public relations mother, Wes Anderson was the second born of three brothers.

Together with his brothers, he attended Saint James preparatory High School, before moving to Austin, where he went to the University of Texas for a philosophy degree. At the age of eight, his parents parted ways leaving him to grow up in a single-parent family setup. His challenges didn't dampen his dream in a film career, though.

While growing up in Houston, Texas, he plunged into cinematography where he used his brothers and close friends as both his first audience and characters in films he produced using his father's camera. It is this early childhood hobby come obsession that has propelled him to be one of the best modern filmmakers.

What are Wes Anderson's most famous films?

To date, he has produced a record thirteen movies. Of the thirteen, he served ten as a director, nine as a producer, and two as an executive producer. Of the thirteen films, he has writer credits in ten.

It's no secret that Anderson prefers to work with some of the same cast members repeatedly. One of the recurring actors is Owen Wilson. He and Owen Wilson were roommates at the University of Texas at Austin. Wes cast him in his first short "Bottle Rocket," which became a feature film.

Interestingly, Owen was not going to play in the movie due to the fact he was applying to be a part of the military, but Wes convinced him anyway. Since then, Wilson has acted in six of Wes Anderson's films and has co-writing credits in three.

Grand Budapest Hotel

Starting off the list as the most popular is the Grand Budapest Hotel that premiered in 2014. The movie is a tale recounting Gustave's legendary adventures in a prominent hotel in Europe who later finds friendship in a boy named Moustafa. The movie intricately strives to strike a balance between a theme of sadness, capricious, and dour against the backdrop of a dramatically changing continent.

The movie recounts the theft and recovery of a timeless renaissance painting and the scuffle for an exquisite family fortune. The creative and pragmatic imagination delicately executed has left both his critics and fans alike eyes rolling and mouth agape.

The Darjeeling Limited

Hotel Chevalier is a short film that leads into Darjeeling Limited starring Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman. The romance he is fleeing in the movie, but we only ever see Natalie's Frame in the actual film.

The Darjeeling Limited tells of three brothers who embark on a journey to India on a spiritual adventure a year after their father's death. It sarcastically portrays their naivety, by extension, the stereotypes existing of these devastated sons who board a luxury train to India to bottle up the country's spirituality and ship it back home as a souvenir.

After ghosting each other for a year, the train voyage serves to help the brothers bond and rekindle the childhood brotherly love and concern they once felt. The plan tragically changes, leaving the brothers stranded in a desert with a printer, bags, and a laminating machine.

Other works credited to the ingenuity of Wes Anderson include: Bottle Rocket, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou that has characters whose animation is much inspired by Magnificent Ambersons and The Great Gatsby.

The rest of his works include a short film titled Rushmore with Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, Isle of Dogs, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and his latest debut of 2020 The French Dispatch, which he wrote, produced, and directed.

Wes Anderson techniques that make his films unique

1. Slow-motion

Beautifully woven into all of his films is the slow-motion, then abrupt stop motion technique that comes towards the end more often than not. He intricately infuses shots to kick off at average speed before gradually stepping them down to move in slow motion while using it.

Unlike most of his peers, such as Roman Polanski, this is unlike most of his peers, who may opt to use it intermittently amongst their movies. View a compilation of Wes Anderson's famous use of slow-motion. It is also important to note, Wes Anderson animates every scene before filming it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel animation

The Grand Budapest Hotel side by side

2. Symmetry

Considered to be one of the finest attributes he has mastered, Wes Anderson has consistently and precisely used symmetry in all his shots, visuals, and works that he has produced. As a philosophy student, he might have learned the psychological connection between the brain of humans and symmetry.

So effective has this technique become that all his visuals, be it bird view or otherwise, all precariously turn out symmetrical. Most other filmmakers oscillate between symmetry and asymmetry.

3. Color palettes

Many designers and other professionals have found tremendous learning experiences from Wes Anderson films. Though his inspiration is unknown, he is known for his color palettes that can naturally, creatively, and accurately depict scenes.

Case in point, his film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. In this film, he delicately and interchangeably uses blue and orange shades as characteristics of the marine environment. This pure Wes Anderson aesthetic endears him to fans as it is an accurate depiction of his story.

4. Music

Randall Poster has served as Anderson's music supervisor, and he may be the brains behind the consistency of the soundtracks in films produced by Anderson.

His most common soundtracks are reincarnations of fast-paced pop and rock music of the 1960s and 1970s. The soundtracks are so notable that they almost, in themselves, are a character.

5. Typography

Like most how most people develop by their earlier life experiences, Wes Anderson is no different. Growing up, Wes Anderson watched Old Italian movies. As a tribute to them, he consistently uses a Futura font, which some have christened "Wes Anderson fonts."

6. Audience

All, if not most of his films, give accounts of stories from a teen's perspective. They simulate the chronology followed by teen novels or leisure board games. His world centers and is often built and developed from a snapshot of this teen character who has been recurring characters. His characters are as child-like adults or adult-like children.

Consequently, his target audience for both TV and film tends to be appropriate for people over twelve. College students pursuing cinematography can also draw a lot from him.

7. Color filters and angles

Wes Anderson has a great taste of color and style and blends them into a psychological scene. He tends to work within the Art Nouveau style - often described as sinuous, rhythmical, and dreamlike.

In his movies, Anderson stylistically filters color to bring out the set. The lighting, colors, actors, props, and setting for a well-blended style bring out the theme and emotion needed.

While doing this, Anderson ensures that his angles are well-developed. Wes Anderson teams up with Steve Zissou in Life Aquatic to direct scenes as if they're playing on a stage.

When Bill Murray is walking at the boat, director Wes Anderson does not let the camera follow him behind but instead sets it on one side of the ship, which gives a broader view. So, we get to see him moving from one room to another, and this scenery lets us understand the setting better. Also, this technique enables the scene to flow smoothly.

8. Story structure

According to Greek philosophy, the plot is the soul of art, and it makes a lot of sense, especially when you look at Anderson's ways of depicting his storyline. For example, each of his acts has an equal number of chapters, which means that he has a clear structure for his stories.

His movies are not just a combination of scenes and acts, but; instead, it is a well-thought-out storyline with a lovable uniqueness. Rushmore- a short flat composition, for instance, is more of a play than a book. The unique, consistent plot makes his movies so addictive because the audience can follow along from the beginning into the climax.

9. The distinct Wes Anderson costumes and fashion

Wes Anderson's choice of fashion is quite different from what you get in other movies. For instance, his love for corduroy is unique and portrays a deep love for classical garments instead of the slim modern fashion. His fashion choices help bring the audience into the film as the textures touch those watching. His intriguing costuming promotes curiosity amongst his viewers.

Wrap up

The Wes Anderson cinematography style is well-known and loved by film enthusiasts. The trademark of Wes Anderson's filmography shows up in the way he approaches his films. Films like The Royal Tenenbaums to The Grand Budapest Hotel have touched audiences around the world. From the production design to perfectly symmetrical shots, people instantly recognize his film styles. Use this guide to develop your unique techniques and leave your impact on this earth.

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