Thursday, May 22, 2014

Annals of cognitive revulsion: Wes Anderson for American Express

The mind makes it hazardous to
take a holiday, especially if
one yields to the temptation,
as I've been doing, to resume
contact with the great world
of artistic achievement. This
mensual jaunt I've declared,
began well enough, in a shop-
ping spree from The Golden
Bowl. There, I was able to
relish the luxuriant folds
of possibility in the prose
of our language's perfected
gift for observation, with
Wittgenstein having laid the
groundwork for altering one's
perspective, as I later found
being cited in The Wherewithal
of Philip Schultz. 

Between Bond Street and Treb-
linka, however, I hadn't reck-
oned on the possibility of en-
countering Wes Anderson, al-
though any long-deferred oc-
casion is bound to catch one
by surprise. Preparing to con-
sider his new movie on Zweig,
I plucked The Darjeeling Lim-
ited from the Criterion cat-
alogue, and settled down with
a Bombay and Fever Tree to
give it a go. Yet it is a de-
fect widely remarked of Cri-
terion's issuings, to steep
them in multiple recitals of
a director's work, so that I
found myself greeted by a
commercial he had "crafted"
for American Express, the
travel parasite. Odysseus had
craft, Ben Hogan had craft.
One stole a city, the other
bestowed the purest stroke. 

I assume that Mr Anderson
must have a mother, and that
she may be a reader of rmbl,
so I don't wish to lay too
much stress on the distinc-
tion he compels one to note,
between lark and snark. One
can see that he achieves a
lot of traction in his work
with send-ups and spoofs of
cinematic precedents, in the
mode of the film school wit.
Even François Truffaut was
not above declaring a famil-
iarity with the Greats.

                   Others will have to have the
                   last word, on the difference
                   between a hustle and a sport.
                   But I think, completely to
                   mime the work of someone else,
                   as an exhibition of fluency,
                   is to exhibit no more than
                   truancy from fair play. Prob-
                   ably I won't bother with Mr
                   Anderson's movies, after all.

                   He has lighted upon what is
                   likely the highest-ascending
                   lark in cinema after Chaplin
                   and Renoir, piggybacking snark
                   to a generation that missed 
                   the original release of an
                   unalloyed, unquestionable,
                   inimitable and triumphal ar-
                   tifact of love as we know it.
                   It's a question of purposes. 
                   Any defense of homage in this
                   is no different from a lien on
                   what is ours, from a parasite.
                   It is one thing, to endure it;
                   to instruct us to be thrilled,
                   is hustling.

François Truffaut
La nuit americaine
Day for Night
Georges Delerue

David Levine
François Truffaut
October 11, 1990
Laurent library scan
The New York Review©


  1. Such indignation from a blogger whose posts are a parade of images - quite often altered by said blogger - that are the work of professional photographers, never credited. Ironic?

    1. Thank you for visiting with yet another engaging comment. This one is uninformed, however, which is very unlike you, unless we strike "never" and lay in "all too seldom, for lack of data", and "incorporate" for "are a parade of." I know you understand irony better than to offer it in this comparison, although Anderson's revolting reduction of a masterpiece to a decadent pastiche makes one feel awfully, awfully good by comparison; and I know better than to be vindicated as well as besmirched by comparison with him. Always I welcome your findings, and I anticipated something of this kind from someone. Please come again.