We open this episode with a fond farewell to Sophie, who is leaving the show after a tremendous two years! Memories are shared, tears are shed, and hugs are skyped. But the show must go on, and we are then joined by this month’s guest: author, editor and film critic Britt Hayes. Britt and Lee look at some of the key films from this month, including Christopher Nolan’s World War II drama Dunkirk, Sofia Coppola’s civil war era remake The Beguiled, the Matt Reeves prequel-sequel War For the Planet of the Apes, and Marvel Studio’s first solo Spider-man film, Spider-man: Homecoming. Then, Britt takes us through the films, career and style of her favourite filmmaker: American indie writer-director Wes Anderson.
Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…
THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001) and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)
Some people feel that Donnie Darko is the best indie film of 2001. What this post presupposes is: maybe it isn’t. If Hi4H is somehow ground zero for your experience with the works of Wes Anderson, you cannot do much better than to recommend you The Royal Tenenbaums. This story about an estranged family of geniuses is almost everything you need to know about Anderson’s style: it’s incredibly funny, genuinely touching, and an absolute aesthetic delight, with the formal lines and bright colours Anderson would become known for deployed to full effect. To be honest, this film is probably all you need to get a firm grasp on Wes Anderson, but the moment it’s over you’re going to want to watch some more. Your evening continues with The Grand Budapest Hotel, his Stefan Zweig-inspired Mandelbrot about the employees and guests at a hotel in the fictitious land of Zubrowka, particularly concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes in an all-time performance). Anderson nudges his already-fantastical style even further away from reality, so that it almost feels at certain points as if we’re watching a marionette show or stop motion cartoon. The eccentricities are undercut by a genuine darkness, yet the film remains a complete delight; hilarious and gorgeous and eminently rewatchable.
Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The Royal Tenenbaums, check out Rushmore (1998). Anderson’s second film is the one that him on the map, with endlessly quotable lines and Jason Schwartzman’s ostentatious Max Fischer high schooler easily one of the more memorable characters in recent years. If you can’t get or have already seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, get your hands on Moonrise Kingdom (2012). Set in the 1960s, Moonrise follows two 12-year-olds who fall in love and resolve to run away together. A maelstrom ensues as their friends, family and the police take off in search of them, in this stunning fable of love and danger.
The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about Wes Anderson? With a filmography as taut as Andersons – at time of writing, a total of eight released features with a ninth in production – it’s difficult to find a lesser-known film. So we’re compelled to recommend Bottle Rocket (1996), his debut feature, and the one that has still gone unseen by many whose first taste of Anderson came with Rushmore. This indie crime film feels perfectly at home in the canon of mid-1990s indie crime cinema, and is a fantastic origin tale for one of our most remarkable filmmakers.
The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Britt Hayes talking Wes Anderson, will be released on 31 July 2017.