' ' Cinema Romantico: The Darjeeling Limited

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

At the end of Wes Anderson's latest opus the thought that popped into my head was a line from the film "State and Main" as spoken by Alec Baldwin: "Well, that happened."

The eternal question, of course, with any movie you see is did you like it? So, did I like it? Well, what I will say is that Wes Anderson is without question unlike any other director working today. You see his movies and you know they're his movies. I'm aware some directors don't take such a sentiment as a compliment but that's precisely how I mean it.

For example, the scene where the brothers have been kicked off the train which they're riding across the continent of Africa and so they're camped out beneath the African stars with a raging fire and their luggage for furniture. One of the brothers has his Ipod set up with an expansive speaker and plays a tune. Is there any place on the entire earth that this could be accepted as a reality? Yes, one place. A Wes Anderson movie.

I wonder if Anderson is attempting to see how far he can push the boundaries of what's acceptable the own cinematic universe he has created before the masses completely turn on him. Many were not pleased with "The Life Aquatic". I was not among them and find it to be his finest work. But admittedly that film was not for everyone and it walked a magnificently thin line between ridiculousness and poignancy.

There's a moment midway through "The Darjeeling Limited" however that pops in jarringly (out of nowhere, but that's sort of the point with the theme Anderson is trying to establish) that falls off that tender tightrope. You're not simultaneously wanting to let loose with a laugh and shed an emotional tear. Anderson takes it too far, I think. I feel myself wanting to....

Wait, I suppose I should at least reference the plot a little bit. Shouldn't I? Probably. It's the story of three brothers (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody) on a train chugging along through Africa. They have not spoken in a year, their father has died, and their mother has taken up as a nun in convent at the foot of the Himalayas. Owen Wilson has decided this journey via train needs to be a spiritual quest for the three of them and is determined to ensure this happens.

Anderson is a skilled director in a visual sense, no question. I don't think there's anyone aside from Scorsese who can so effectively pair slow mo with pop music. But these things only get you so far. There's a long, drawn-out sequence at the end which is essentially one of his trademark tracking shots, though it's not actually a tracking shot (if you see it, you'll understand), that seems to serve no point nor purpose. The tracking shot of the Belafonte in "The Life Aquatic" and at the conclusion of "The Royal Tenenbaums" were thematic but this one's just.....cool looking, I guess. I have no idea. Plus, a certain actress turns up very, very briefly and if you haven't seen the prequel to "The Darjeeling Limited" (called "Hotel Chevalier" which is available for download on Itunes, which is where I saw it) you will probably find yourself thinking, "What the hell was she doing there?"

(By the way, don't even try to figure out Bill Murray's purpose other than the fact he's Bill Murray and he's in the new Wes Anderson movie.)

I fear her presence indicates Anderson may have entered that dreaded territory wherein a filmmaker refuses to cut material, even if it makes no sense or seems meaningless, simply because he's too in love with it.

I'm just rambling at this point and I apologize. It's not really a review. It's my horrid attempts at working through the film I've seen. And yet I still don't know what I thought of it. I fear I may never know.


Rory Larry said...

Psst, I'm pretty sure they are traveling across India, not Africa. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Oh sure, and I suppose next you're going to tell me the Himalayas aren't in Africa either.

Wait a minute....

Wretched Genius said...

I managed to get a copy of the next Wes Anderson script. Here's a quick excerpt:

Man #1: I'm quirky.

Man #2: Yes, but I'm quirky and droll.

Man #1: That may be so, but I'm
quirky and only decorate in muted pastels. It helps show that I am not happy with my life, but am still getting by.

Man #2: I'm afraid we'll just have to agree to disagree, which may not make us happy, but we'll at least leave with a slightly better understanding of each other, and that's almost as good.

Bill Murray: Hi. I'm here, too.