Wes Anderson’s Hotel Chevalier

October 7th, 2007 · No Comments · Artists



We like Wes Anderson, so it’s a given that I’d approach Hotel Chevalier, a loosely constructed prologue to his new feature film The Darjeeling Limited, with fan-like appreciation instead of hard criticism. I like the emotional complexity of his characters. I like the tender sensitivity to poetry and metaphor and ultimate, weary optimism of his films. I like the careful compositions of each frame and the painterly attention to the smallest set detail. I also like the sophisticated use of color, which comprises a subtle code that transitions from film to film consistently.

I can think of no other contemporary director that evokes Hictchcock’s sensibility better than Anderson. See Hitchcock’s use of color as an emotional device in Marnie, or the complex character development of Vertigo, North by Northwest, or Psycho.

Hotel Chevalier has all my favorite Anderson trademarks. In its 13-minute duration, Anderson establishes mood, character, location and sparse background details… and little else. This is not a plot-heavy short, but few of his films are. What happens, really, in Rushmore, or The Royal Tenenbaums, or The Life Aquatic, except the slow transition of difficult interpersonal relationships heading towards imperfect resolution?

Although I’ve read strong criticism of Hotel Chevalier and suspect there will be more directed towards the upcoming The Darjeeling Limited, and while I can see the critics’ main point — that Anderson is using the same bag of tricks all over again to lesser effect — I remain a loyalist.

Ultimately, I think that Wes Anderson is an artist’s filmmaker. He is slowly and consistently developing a cohesive body of work that, like Hitchcock’s, will include some works that are better than others. Taken as a whole, though, I think they will be among the defining films of our time.

You can see Hotel Chevalier for free on iTunes.

Related: Murray on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou, and my reminiscence on a Dallas all-boys school and Rushmore.

Category: Artists

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