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Wes Anderson's Cinematic Soundtrack
In a follow-up to to a previous article on a director's creative input towards music in film, the following is a look at celebrated director Wes Anderson and how his favorite music plays in his films. It's no secret that Wes Anderson is a fan of 1960s and 1970s British rock and pop. His films are filled with terrific tracks by legendary artists. But what makes Anderson stand out is his ability to use songs usually not fit for 'Greatest Hits' compilations but fit perfectly into scenes he's crafted. Anderson is in the company of Tarantino and Scorsese whereby they develop scenes in their head dictated by their favorite songs. The following is a look into Wes Anderson's career that utilizes the right music to craft beautiful scenes.
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Anderson's debut "Bottle Rocket" was a low-budget indie success based on a short black and white film that attracted the attention of director James L. Brooks. Brooks helped fund the film's low budget co-written by its star Owen Wilson, which featured his brothers Luke and Andrew Wilson. Dignan (Owen) and Anthony (Luke) are young go-getters who seek excitement by committing low-level heists. Composer Mark Mothersbaugh's (lead singer of DEVO) work on "Bottle Rocket" would signal the start of a long-standing relationship with director Anderson.
Scottish twins The Proclaimers have their song "Over and Done With" featured in the film. The pop song is a perfect fit for the energy exhibited in these idealistic criminals.
Anderson's follow-up was the tale of a mature high-schooler in an esteemed prep school whose extra-curricular activities prove too much for his academic performance. In a career-defining role, Jason Schwartzman is Max Fischer, the overly-ambitious high schooler who longs for a British elementary teacher (Olivia Williams). However, he must overcome his friend / romantic competitor Herman Blume (Bill Murray). The opening montage set to The Creation's "Making Time" is a terrific moment in establishing Max's credentials.
Max and Blume come to odds and what unfolds is a prank war of sorts. The working class kid versus the millionaire. Max sabotages his competition while Blume is reduced to petty pranks against his young competition, set to The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away."
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
After the critically-acclaimed success of his first two films, Anderson attracted A-list attention for his next film, "The Royal Tenenbaums." While the Wilson brothers were featured, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gene Hackman starred in Anderson's ode to a dysfunctional family. Set in New York City and influenced by Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons," "The Royal Tenenbaums" earned Anderson his first Oscar nomination while upholding his track record of music on film. The opening montage that establishes the Tenenbaum family is set to Mothersbaugh's composition of the classic Beatles track "Hey Jude."
One of the highlights of the dysfunctional attributes of the Tenenbaum clan is Richie's (Luke Wilson) attraction to his step-sister Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow). In the following scene, Richie is completely smitten when Margot comes off the bus, set to Nico's "These Days."
However, Richie Tenenbaum must come to terms in the fact that his step-sister Margot is with her older husband Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray). When confiding with St. Clair, they soon learn that Margot might be having an affair with family friend Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). Richie resorts to a suicide attempt set to Elliott Smith's "Needle in the Hay," an equally haunting song in the wake of Smith's death by suicide in 2004.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
Anderson followed up "The Royal Tenenbaums" with the self-indulgent "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." Starring Bill Murray, the titular character is an oceanographer in search of a Jaguar shark while battling pirates. Nonetheless, Anderson employs the musical talents of Mothersbaugh to score his film.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
"The Darjeeling Limited" was the tale of three dysfunctional brothers (Adrian Brody, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman) who travel on a cross-country Indian train who seek to reunite with their mother. The film is a character study in three different personalities, but nonetheless provides a fish-out-of-water tale of young men in the Indian country-side. In keeping with Anderson's love of British rock, The Kinks have a few songs featured in the film's soundtrack.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Anderson's latest film is a stop-motion animated film based on the Roald Dahl book "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." Stop-motion animation would be an ambitious feat for such a director, but just based on the trailer alone, Anderson's trademarks are all over the place. Featuring the vocal talents of George Clooney and Meryl Streep, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" features the song by The Bobby Fuller Four, "Let Her Dance."