“I Don’t Have An Aesthetic”: Wes Anderson Explains The Origins of His Visual Style

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Summary Wes Anderson claims that he doesn’t have an aesthetic, explaining that elements of his visual style were born from practical considerations.
Anderson cites an example from 1998’s Rushmore involving a baseball diamond, recalling that he only used dolly shots – now a key element of his style – because his plans to film the sequence handheld wouldn’t work after the location became flooded.
Other distinctive elements of Anderson’s visual style include symmetry, pastel color palettes, tableau-like sets, and the use of longer takes, tracking shots, and whip pans.
Wes Anderson, a director with one of the most instantly-recognizable visual styles, explains how his distinct aesthetic came about. Anderson made a name for himself with 1996’s Bottle Rocket before further announcing himself as one of the most interesting directors working today with movies like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. The director’s most recent release is Asteroid City, with his next project, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, set to release on Netflix this week.
In a recent interview with Deadline to promote the impending release of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Anderson addresses his visual style, making the surprising claim that, “I don’t have an aesthetic.” The director then further elaborates on his comment, explaining how some of his filmmaking flourishes came about. Check out Anderson’s full comment below when the interviewer expresses that some people may disagree with his assertion about not having an aesthetic:
“[Laughs] Which I totally understand! Even I can say, ‘Well, yes, I can tell that’s the same person.’ But it’s an invention, you know? What I was doing in Bottle Rocket was what I had. That was my aesthetic. And it changed in this one. And, every time, so much of the next movie is informed by something we did in the one before. “Like, people often refer to me doing these kinds of dolly shots, and Asteroid City begins with a long one. We go from one place to the next, and we run around. It’s a certain kind of way to film a sequence that is not so typical for everybody. And I do it a lot. “Well, I know exactly when I started to do it, and I know why, which is a rare thing with this type of thing. When we were doing Rushmore, there was a scene that took place on a baseball diamond. I had this whole scene planned. It was with a big crowd, and we were going to use handheld shots. “We arrived in the morning, and it was absolutely flooded. I said, “Well, let’s see how long it’s going to take to dry.” But it was clear that the scene would be about mud if we filmed on this baseball diamond. Now, the scene is written in a way where it sort of had to be on that baseball diamond, between home plate and third base … It’s the edge of the pitch, you might say. “There’s a thing called the dugout, which is where the players go away to go up to bat, and there’s a strip to the side of it, and I just decided, ‘We’ll put everything over here. We’ll lay a great big dolly track, and we’ll play the scene all the way this way, and then we’ll play the scene all the way that way. We’ll just use the little bit of set that we have.’ “And when I did it, I thought, ‘Well, I liked that. That was interesting and I enjoyed it.’ And so I feel like I’ve been doing variations of that ever since. That’s why I do those — because the baseball diamond was too flooded. “And often I feel like that’s the way things kind of evolve when you’re doing movies. You know, you find the thing you like, and then you do it again, do it a bit differently, and then you say, ‘OK, I’m going to try a different thing here. I’ll go another direction.’”
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Wes Anderson’s Visual Style Explained
Although Anderson’s “aesthetic” may be born from practical considerations, there are some visual elements that are undeniably consistent across all of his movies. Symmetry is an obvious one, with shots in his films often framed in a way that creates balance – or sometimes a clear delineation – between the left and right sides of the screen. Singles often see characters occupying the center of the frame, while two shots frequently see two characters positioned exactly opposite one another.
Production design, too, plays a crucial role in Anderson’s movies. Many of Anderson’s films feature a color palette heavy on pastels, which is especially apparent in 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. This pastel color palette accompanies tableau-like sets, which often look closer to something that would be featured in a stage play than in a movie. Often included in these sets are “frame within a frame”-type shots, with characters positioned within a window, doorway, or other square or rectangular space.
Also playing into Anderson’s visual style is the use of longer takes, tracking shots, and whip pans, all of which are present throughout his filmography, including in recent works like The French Dispatch and Asteroid City. These visual flourishes accompany other Anderson staples like matter-of-fact dialogue and actors themselves, with stars like Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson, among others, frequently showing up in Anderson’s movies.
Source: Deadline

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