Wes Anderson Explains How to Make a Wes Anderson Film

Valery Hache/AFP/GettyImages

I’ll admit to something embarrassing as a writer: I’d never heard of the word “twee” until I started seeing it in reviews of Wes Anderson’s latest films sometime post–The Royal Tenenbaums. Since then, I’ve noticed it’s the bon mot of choice for quips indicating Anderson makes meticulously stylish movies. Which is kind of like snarking that Scorsese loves tracking shots, or Tarantino writes long monologues. Call me an apologist, but I find his intricately drawn where’s-Waldo worlds of bittersweet nostalgia entrancing. At the very least, I think we owe him for giving us Gene Hackman’s last great film. (True, I haven’t seen Welcome to Mooseport, but you don’t need to stick a fork in a power socket to know what’ll happen.)

But really, I consider even that faint praise: No matter how often others deconstruct and mimic Wes Anderson’s style, he almost always nails a note of whimsical enchantment you just won’t get anywhere else short of your first field trip to the Natural History Museum. And his latest, Moonrise Kingdom, has hit the commercial-critical sweet spot — who better to re-create the fastidious fantasies of adolescent love — without Anderson really changing it up: wide-angle tracking shots, check; deadpan delivery, check; Bill Murray’s vague sense of subdued aggression, double check. Which begs the question, how does Wes Anderson make a Wes Anderson film? I cajoled a phone call in the post-Cannes blur to ask him, garnering a predictably perplexed response: “My whole process is, gosh, I don’t even know.”

After deliberating a beat, à la one of his characters pondering childhood disenchantment, Anderson elaborated: “Usually I’m thinking of some kind of atmosphere to go with where the story is taking place. It’s sort of a vague concept, a feeling. The process is actually pinning down and gathering the details it’s going to be built from. Somewhere it shifts from being inspiration to a kind of research.”

Moonrise Kingdom began as a fantasy of the first love he wished he’d had, inspired by François Truffaut’s Small Change and Alan Parker’s Melody. (While I had him on the record, I also got Anderson to confirm Whit Stillman as an inspiration: “I definitely was inspired when I saw Metropolitan … this guy did that thing that me and my friends were dreaming to do.”

Filed Under: Moonrise Kingdom, Wes anderson