Colors and conversations. That is how i would sum up Wes Anderson’s 2007 film. Like all of his movies, it is dialogue driven. But each shot has been thought out an the color is warm and full, with shots that could hung as pieces of art, filling every part of the frame, especially some of the still life frames.
Darjeeling Limited is the story of 3 brothers (played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and the often cast Jason Schwartzman) who have grown apart since their fathers death and have decided to go on an adventure through India. One of the brothers, Jack (Schwartzman) is a writer who often times does not know what he wants but carries himself as very agreeable and just flows from one impulse to the other, usually in the form of passionate flings. Wes also made a short film “Hotel Chavelier” that takes place before the film where Jack muddles through meeting back up with an ex-girlfriend (played by Natalie Portman), who is equally as impulsive as Jack. The second brother Peter (Brody) is also, not a leader type, but is more acutely aware of what he doesn’t want but not necessarily of what he does. So this leaves him to be unhappy when decisions happen without his full involvement.
The oldest brother, Francis (Wilson) is the anal-rentive leader, who dictates every turn on the trip while hiding behind a veil of democratic “do we all agree to my idea” approach. Of course by the end of the movie, the brothers, through a series of conflict amongst each other and a few traumatic events, realize not only that they all have something to let go of. They have to let go of fretting about what they cannot change and take the leap on things that they can change, however scary that might be (like deciding to be a father).
There are a lot of aspects about Wes Anderson films i like. He usually has cameos with actors he has worked with in previous films. I love his dialogue, it might sound understated, but it is very sharp and each line can reveal an entire back history while still being very natural. It is like a finely crafted caricature of real life, where all of the fat has been trimmed to highlight the best aspects of an adventure. Everyone says the right thing but it never sounds cliche or out of place. The version I watched was the Criterion Edition Blu-Ray, which featured a commentary with all 3 screen writers (2 of which were Anderson and Schwartzman) and one thing was clear, he put a lot of thought into planing out every scene and line, no rock was left unturned and they even polished the stones. Within minutes of the brothers meeting each other, their entire backstory was revealed, their stepping on toes and being domineering and subservient to each other, lying and back stabbing, sharing and take backs, betrayal and trusting each other.One of my favorite lines in the movie was when Jack asked, “I wonder if the three of us could be friends in real life, not as brothers, but as people”.
Because this was shot in India and on a train for most of the film that birthed an interesting result. A hand painted train, outside, inside, every diner plate and window shade. It was more expensive to have things machine made in India then to just hire a bunch of very skilled craftsman who lavishly decorated things for a living. I loved the use of colors in this movie, there were lots of yellows and red/orange colors, which was echoed in the lighting. I happen to thing that if you shine an orange light on someone it will always make them look better, it gives them a warmth that a light tan does.
There are some fun first person camera work that brings you into the scene by giving you movement that a static shot just couldn’t reciprocate. The extras on the Blu-Ray reveal that working in India occasionally gave them some unplanned actors they could piece into the film as minor roles or things like camels that were used to haul equipment could easily just hang out in the background to give a shot another layer to add a natural depth.
Beyond the dialogue and shot composition, I think the third defining aspect of a Wes Anderson film is his use of music (usually accompanying montages). He uses folksy or acoustic songs with a lyrical story to elevate a scene. Songs take a beautiful scene and give it feeling akin to adding some egg yolk for richness in a recipe, it gives it more velvety texture.
Darjeeling is beautiful and a fun journey filled with laughs and ruffled feathers and ending that is upbeat yet still very open and not cliche. The Criterion Blu-Ray was decent, the documentary was nice but gave very little explanation as to what was happening in the footage. The directors commentary had all three screenwriters on it, but as they eventually said, it was being done via skype and felt very unprepared (there was a lot of ‘um’ and ‘uh’ going on). They also seemed to have planed every shot and dialogue out so there was not a lot of problems for them to discuss as they led us through the film. There are all kinds of things a directory can talk about in a commentary, what they wanted the viewer to feel or a scene they struggled with writing or scenes they cut from the film. Wes Anderson did talk a little bit about other films that served as inspiration at the end, this was nice but ultimately this felt like a flat commentary. I feel like after a commentary you should be able to rewatch the film with a new understanding of….anything in the film, but I dont think this commentary gave me much new insight. The other features were marginal, some great still shots, but no other interviews with the cast or crew.
Funny witty dialogue, cozy cast of characters, wonderful use of color and set/costume design
Poorly put together directors commentary, Good documentary footage but lacked exposition, great still gallery, great comentary on Hotel Chevalier short film.