Love’s young Dream
UNLESS YOU are a particularly stupid and vain reviewer, you acknowledge that your failure to appreciate a given film by a talented and serious filmmaker is your failure and not that of the filmmaker in question. Wes Anderson is an obviously able director, each of his films bearing his aesthetic thumbprint — warmly, richly coloured, evoking not the muted lives of so many of the sweetly sad adults in his films, but their boldest, most romantic yearnings. I unreservedly like Rushmore, his second feature film, and I like bits and pieces of all his films. So I am happy, before the universal acclaim (94 percent approval on the aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes) that has greeted Moonrise Kingdom, which opened the Cannes Film Festival in May, to accept that you, dear reader, are very likely to love Wes Anderson’s latest film or already do and are reading this merely for confirmation of your admiration.
But I did not love Anderson’s film. I was mildly charmed, on occasions, smiled at the odd deadpan line, but felt mostly restless and querulous. In Moonrise Kingdom, a film ‘about’ (in as much as any work of art is about any one thing) first love, Anderson creates another hermetically sealed world impervious to the storms raging just outside of its purview. When a storm, of Biblical proportions, does hit Anderson’s fictional island of New Penzance, it is, of course, perfectly staged and perfectly impotent, the havoc being wreaked circling the characters, happening around them rather than to them, their complacent self-regard and confidence utterly unshaken.
Critics discussing the various influences on Anderson’s films often bring up François Truffaut. Anderson himself has brought up Satyajit Ray. But Truffaut and Ray don’t shut out the world. The children in films like Small Change or Sonar Kella are recognisably children, not hamstrung by the director’s fantasy of childhood, not hamstrung by too-deliberate stylistic tics in place of personality. Like a character in JD Salinger (to whose Glass family Anderson owes so much), I imagine Kara Hayward’s character, the 12-year-old girl at the centre of this movie’s love story, saying, “Don’t willya!” to Anderson as his camera lingers on her knee-high socks or fetishises her green eye shadow and large, affectless eyes.
Moonrise Kingdom is a lovingly handcrafted film and overweening in its self-regard.
Shougat Dasgupta is an Assistant Editor with Tehelka.