(Abrams, 336 pages, $24)
By Matt Zoller Seitz
It’s easy to generalize the work of director Wes Anderson as “artificial.” But in his new book, The Wes Anderson Collection, writer Matt Zoller Seitz finds the substance in Anderson’s signature style. It’s a visual essay befitting a visual essayist such as Anderson, replete with behind-the-scenes set shots, script notes and storyboard art, all scrapbooked together into a coffee table book that not only illuminates the director’s creative process but is also a love letter to the art of filmmaking.
The book feels like a Wes Anderson film—no small feat—and Seitz uses Anderson’s supposed “artificiality” to emphasize the hidden depth that percolates throughout the director’s work. Seitz asks the reader to entertain the idea that Anderson is an auteur of consistent vision and voice. He accomplishes this through a collection of in-depth interviews he conducted with the director over a nearly 20-year period, from Anderson’s 1996 breakthrough film Bottle Rocket to his latest feature Moonrise Kingdom.
The connection between author and director lends an intimacy to the text; their conversations are engrossing and enlightening. Seitz covers the necessary bases, such as production and directorial choices, and most notably, Anderson’s personal influences. The director opens up most, in fact, not when discussing his own work, about which he is often reticent, but when waxing poetic about film history and past directors from whom he borrows heavily. We are treated to shot-by-shot comparisons—“visual quotes,” as Seitz calls them—between scenes in Anderson’s Rushmore and François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows; moments from The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou are seen next to scenes from Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. As Seitz cleverly points out, even Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans gets a rain-soaked homage in the Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The delightfully expressive, brightly colored format—which also features whimsical illustrations from artist Max Dalton and a philosophical introduction from Michael Chabon—belies the depth found within its pages. Which, for Wes Anderson, is totally appropriate.
Review written by Carley Johnson