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Monday, December 14, 2009

Where The Wild Animals Are Inside Each One Of Us



It’s hard not to smile during a Wes Anderson film. Fantastic Mr. Fox proved to be as funny and charming as Wes Anderson’s best work. The trailer didn’t do the stop animation justice; the film was visually pleasing and the director’s attention to detail came through in every frame, reaffirming Anderson’s artistic vision.


It’s hard not to feel during Where the Wild Things Are. With scant source material, but a professional relationship with Maurice Sendak, Jonze delves into the inner psyche of Max and produces a raging bunch of wild things. All the uncertainty of life can be felt in that one hundred and two minute film; my first thought after walking out of theater was that I would have been more comfortable watching that film at home or in an empty theater. If Carol's last roar didn’t make you choke up you have no soul.

Fantastic was classic Wes Anderson. It begins with a story book approach that immediately acquaints the audience with the book on which it is based. He makes no attempt to suspend the audience’s disbelief, instead choosing to break the fourth wall immediately and repeatedly and prepare the audience for a great story told brilliantly in his style. His introduction of characters, extreme close ups and subtle, dry humor work in Fantastic as Anderson staples unlike the slight misses of Darjeeling Limited. The visual puns were perfectly placed and not over used; the googly eyes and sly smiles of Kylie and Mr. Fox were particularly hilarious. Direction and visual design aside, the dialogue is funny and subtle. After watching the film I wanted to read the book and discover how much either Roald Dahl or Anderson and Baumbach were responsible for the language. I know that the use of the word “cuss” was the writing team’s work, and it was great, but I want to know more.

Wild Things was classic Spike Jonze. It was sprawling, different and emotionally smarter than its audience (that is Spike Jonze is in touch with what it is to feel). Max is the insecure child inside every adult that is still unsure of what will happen tomorrow despite their age. There are moments of ecstasy, but they are followed by moments of unexplainable sorrow. Highs, but mostly lows. James Gandolfini’s portrayal of Carol is mesmerizing; a sensitive, angry wild thing that is unwilling to accept reality. Wild Things pries into the psyche as we see Max’s thoughts from every angle, all of his emotions and fears. Jonze maintains his version of subtle, dark humor without the aid of Charlie Kauffman. Wild Things is as personal and emotional as Fantastic is charming and quaint.

Watching Fantastic Mr. Fox, I couldn’t help but think of Where the Wild Things Are. Two American directors beloved by the youth, film fanatics and critics, each release their own favorite childhood story onto the American public. Both films were indicative of the director’s style. In Fantastic Mr. Fox, the audience gets exactly what it expects from Wes Anderson; it could be that a stop animation movie is the best way to showcase his particularly fanciful reality. In Where the Wild Things Are, Jonze delivers, against all odds, a tragically beautiful look of what it is to be a child, and an adult that still has a child inside.

It is said that Americans are more juvenile than our European cousins and other citizens of the
world, that we have an obsession with our youth and inner child. At the center of both of these American director’s films is the word wild. Wild is to be not tamed or domesticated, not acclimated to society. Children are the wild, they are the dreams that never die within us and if there is one thing Americans can do it is dream. Mr. Fox solves his problems by never giving up on his imagination. Max solves his problems only by a foray into his overactive mind. Anderson and Jonze, both dark in their own way, understand what it is at once to feel pain and pleasure, love and hate. Both lead characters eventually return to the practical world, but what makes them different is their sense of entitlement to dream. Sometimes their dreams may get the best of them, but the alternative is much scarier.

Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze were both born in 1969. At the age of forty Jonze has released three feature films and Anderson has finished five. They are both entering a period, if their last films are any indication, of so-called artistic maturity where they have trained their audience and perfected their styles. It is safe to assume that we can expect several more great films in the next several decades from both directors. Currently both are working on an adaptation, Jonze’s Light Boxes and Anderson’s My Best Friend, a novel and a foreign film respectively. Stay tuned for more wildness.

2 comments:

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  2. That first comment was copy-pasted from the wrong window. Here's my real comment:

    I disagree that Wild Things shows Jonze maturing. I thought it was an interesting stab at something that he didn't quite have his finger on. Adaptation and Malkovich are both better and more focused films. It had a lot of emotion in it, but a lot of it was a little vague emotionally. A lot of the time I don't think even spike jonze knew what he was going for. Not that I didn't absolutely love it, but...

    Fox, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. Up there with Royal T's as far as Anderson's canon goes. Not only was it brilliant and nuanced all around, it worked as an adult film as well as a kids' film. I don't think Wild Things holds up as a kids film in the same way. And the art direction is mind blowing. Plus, I left feeling so good.

    In fact, immediately leaving the theater for Fox, I walked directly to the box office and bought tickets to a later showing that day. I've never done that before. Bravo, Fox, Bravo.

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