21 April 2008

Darjeeling Limited by Anderson, 2007

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 12:23 pm



  1. Yikes, capturing didn’t go too well this time, did it? Unless you’re posting this on a Blackberry somewhere – which I highly doubt. I haven’t seen this one, but I’ll always play the faux-Christian mother with Wes Anderson, inevitably seeing anything he churns out because the inner auteur-schoolboy in me just can’t hide those sensibilities. Moreover, I’ve heard some invectives thrown DL’s way because of the secular pandering…you don’t say!.


    Comment by Seyfried — 21 April 2008 @ 1:17 pm

  2. I don’t know what happened to the image quality — same procedure, worse results. I thought it was a fine movie. It has a sort of literary feel to it, like a short story. In fact, the movie begins with a short that’s separated off from the main film, but that’s alluded to later. And the character played by Jason Schwartzman is a short story writer, who read aloud the end of a story that corresponds to the events in the short film — a nice little pomo gimmick.

    How much does the viewer try to interpret the characters’ motivations based on their childhood (they’re three brothers)? In Tenenbaums the parents are right there on the screen, but I wasn’t fully persuaded about their being the causes of the kids’ personality disturbances. In Darjeeling the personality quirks are very much on the surface; the acting style, as in Anderson’s other movies, is 2-dimensional. So you can decide that the mother’s absence and the father’s death have caused these guys to turn out the way they are, but you don’t really know much about them as people. The spiritual quest that purportedly draws them together is never presented as much more than a goof, and the big reunion scene near the end would have been anticlimactic if there had been much of a buldup to enhance expectations.

    So what’s to like? It’s enjoyable to watch the three brothers, each appealing in his own way, interact with each other and with India. And it’s got a nice relaxed and confident pace. The scenery is lovely (not well represented in my screen grabs). Does it “mean” anything beyond that? Is it (again) about the emotionally stunted and rootless offspring of the self-absorbed hippie-cum-entrepreneurial generation and the attempt either to come to grips with it or to toss it aside like excess baggage so you can hop the train to your own well-deserved irresponsibility? Sure, whatever.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  3. Actually there are some technical difficulties with the image function. I redid one of the shots and it came out clearer, but the other 3 won’t load. WordPress has been screwing around with its package, and I think they’ve kind of fucked it up some. I’ll try further repairs later.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2008 @ 2:08 pm

  4. It seems this is the problem: now when I load images into the post they show up as the size you now see here. Stretching them to a bigger size loses resolution. Previously I could load an image that was too big for the space and then shrink it, retaining or even enhancing sharpness. “Improvement.” I think the interface changed just after I posted The Host, which explains why all subsequent screen shots are of poorer quality.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  5. Anderson went to school here, meeting the Wilson Brothers amidst film school and complementary slacking. I’d be naive to think his films have a provincial, idiosyncratic Austin “feel”; however the burlesque mis en scene, Le Voyage Dans La Lune, all of those feel particularly remniscent of film-dementia historicism preached here. Ironically, the department’s most sagely professor preaches to the one who’s films ascribe the least amount of debt to this thought: Robert Rodriguez. But most of this really isn’t unusual: just ask where Howard Suber’s affinities lie.

    I do wonder about the self-parody of his work; minor Anderson might be the only place to go when you’re pushed into a corner of milked reflexivity. Still, as you describe, they’re fun, inconsequential, and rather unpretentious. Most of the Buddhist-pandering I remarked came from articles I discovered when I was searching for the ORIENT-pandering of Lost in Translation. Moreover, they tended to be more speculative, I guess.


    Comment by Seyfried — 21 April 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  6. And what of Wilson’s subsequent suicide attempt?


    Comment by Seyfried — 21 April 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  7. “Film dementia historicism” — can you elaborate? Have you had any involvement with the Austin film school, and/or do you intend to in future?

    It seems that Anderson laments the shallowness of himself and his generation. Fucked up and traumatized maybe, but emotionally numb and self-indulgent in response. It’s like they can’t muster enough depth either to achieve true depression or true joy. The spiritual quest is a non-starter: they know it’s never going to “take.” One could regard the brothers as prototypical Americans in their sojourn through India, but they’re more or less respectful of the traditions. Mostly they lament that they can’t ever really get beyond the sensory aesthetics of this ancient and deep culture. So Owen Wilson’s character has a spiritual bonding thing he tries to do with his brothers involving peacock feathers and meditation, but it’s his assistant came up with the plan and the other brothers didn’t read the handout so they failed to do it properly. The message at the end seems more or less this: fuck it, so we’re shallow, there’s nothing we can do about it — let’s explore the world. It is uncanny that Wilson tried to kill himself just before this movie came out, inasmuch as his character apparently tried to do the same in the events leading up to the story.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2008 @ 5:48 pm

  8. I probably shouldn’t start making everything a pejorative around here. Oh, well. I dated a girl (you know the one) who used to attend it; frankly, I had lived a lot of my “film school” dreams through her, and my cynical associations with its teaching style probably caused her to leave it sooner than she could have – though for good measure she was much more interested in Romantic literature. Thank God. I think from the Bordwell discussions we had via email you can extrapolate what exactly were some of the problems, though more tragically were how conservative they were to film criticism, treating it more as a business or science than an art. And so on (and on and on…)

    “Fucked up and traumatized maybe, but emotionally numb and self-indulgent in response.”

    I think you’re right, specifically in light of his films always using music for dissociation. Much of Rushmore seems autobiographically rendered by Owen Wilson: the stapled Hollywood underachiever; revolts against distasteful pedagogy, etc. The films are curiously comparable to Cache – a film I saw recently. Where in Haneke’s film children are victims of the general disinheritance created by the malevolence of their parents, Wes Anderson’s paternal figures are relieved of their lassitude through the unashamed conformity of their children. Like you said:

    “fuck it, so we’re shallow, there’s nothing we can do about it — let’s explore the world.”


    Comment by Seyfried — 21 April 2008 @ 6:23 pm

  9. Perhaps, I should clarify: I don’t think the characters of Wes’s films are conformists by choice, but merely by inevitability.


    Comment by Seyfried — 21 April 2008 @ 6:24 pm

  10. http://madwell.com/flash/hotel.htm


    Comment by Seyfried — 21 April 2008 @ 6:34 pm

  11. I haven’t seen Bottle Rocket but I liked Rushmore, Tenenbaums and now this one. Steve Zissou was lame in my opinion, but you can’t win them all. The storytelling really is pretty darned good, and the characters are poignant and sort of sweet in their fragile self-absorption. You don’t get detailed backstories for these 3 brothers but you get glimpses of unsettled lives having been deserted somewhat gratefully by each of them without really knowing precisely what’s going on. This sort of episodic entry into ongoing lives gives Darjeeling the feel of a well-crafted short story. Like the short you’ve linked to — a nicely etched vignette gesturing toward something outside of itself, but the complete event takes place in a self-contined artistic bubble of scenery and dialog. The whole movie moves the bubble to another continent and expands its perimeter, but it’s the same sort of feel. Tenenbaums is like that too, isn’t it — everybody in the family comes together in a somewhat artificial but self-contained interval of dramatic space-time.

    Romantic literature? Sounds tragic. All connections severed? I liked the line in the short, something like “I promise I will never be your friend.” Shwartzman plays that same goofy tune again later in the movie, which we got a kick out of because it references summering in Juan Les Pins, which was the next town over from where we lived. Natalie Portman finally gets to drink her Bloody Mary. Oh, and the short story he wrote the last lines of, which he lets his brothers read? It’s the last lines of dialogue from the short, and it’s written on stationery from that Paris hotel. Cute.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  12. You and CPC…new layout changes. Interesting. (Ok, well, maybe yours wasn’t much of a change.)

    I’ll agree with you about Zissou – which gets lost in all the Georges Méliès re-animation. I also have a sneaking suspicion that we don’t give Owen enough credit as a writer, but I’ll have to gauge DL in the oeuvre.

    “All connections severed?”

    From her? Hardly. Though, I’m done playing Sean Connery in Marnie for the moment.


    Comment by Seyfried — 22 April 2008 @ 10:15 am

  13. Yep, changed the background color — I guess I’m just impulsive like that.


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 April 2008 @ 11:08 am

  14. So this song from the short — I think it’s called “Where Do You Go To” — turns out it was top of the charts in England for 6 weeks in 1969. I’m sure I’d never heard it before. I always find it kind of amazing that a pop song would be so popular there and completely ignored in the States. For example, have you ever heard of Robbie Williams?


    Comment by ktismatics — 23 April 2008 @ 7:05 am

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