Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2007. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Collage Cinemagraphique, American Empirical Pictures, Dune Entertainment. Screenplay by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman. Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman. Produced by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Scott Rudin. Production Design by Mark Friedberg. Costume Design by Milena Canonero. Film Editing by Andrew Weisblum.
There’s a moment of pure beauty somewhere in this Wes Anderson film, where Adrien Brody takes the short story his brother just wrote and reads it privately in a secluded compartment of the train they’re travelling on. It brings him to tears, and is one of the loveliest, most poignant bits of the experience. Sadly, for those audiences members who really respond to it, the moment turns out to be a harbinger of things not to come; for while Anderson’s film is a gorgeous work of art, it doesn’t qreach the level of emotional delicacy it seems to be reaching for. I say quite because it’s incredibly lovely, and shows the director expanding in other ways that go well beyond the delicious quirkiness of his earlier efforts. Brody, Jason Schwartzman (who co-wrote the script with his cousin Roman Coppola and Anderson) and Owen Wilson play three estranged brothers who reunite in India a year after their father died in a tragic accident. Wilson is intent on making them close again, though it doesn’t take long before the personality differences that drove them apart rear their ugly heads and drive a wedge between the three siblings. Of course, this being a Wes Anderson movie, the personality differences are subtly dry, witty tones of isolationism that provoke laughter from a very deep place. Robert Yeoman’s cinematography is the most incredible work he’s done yet: rather than the self-consciously artificial settings of The Life Aquatic, this is shot in the real India, using natural elements to produce the solid candy colours that make Anderson’s work so distinctive. Obvious influences by the humanist films of Satyajit Ray (including the use of his film’s scores on the soundtrack) and a few nods to Black Narcissus only enrich the experience. It’s not the heartbreaker it really wants to be, but it’s still incredibly good, and all three actors shine. Screens with the short film Hotel Chevalier, a so-so piece co-starring Natalie Portman that only makes sense if you’ve seen the feature.
The Criterion Collection: #540
Venice Film Festival: In Competition