A SPECULATIVE WES ANDERSON FILMOGRAPHY, 2013-2075
by Andy Sturdevant
“I read this article that said all the Italian workers at Cinecitta are saying, like, ‘He’s the Maestro, he’s Fellini, come back to life!’” – My friend Dave on Wes Anderson’s work on The Life Aquatic, 2005
“I’d blown it, Friedkin had blown it, Altman went into eclipse, one flop after another, Francis went crazy, even Raging Bull didn’t do any business. Everybody kind of blew it in varying shapes and sizes.” – Peter Bogdanovich, 1997.
“His often damaged characters are viewed in a compassionate light.” – Wikipedia.
The Dreyfus Affair (2013). Following two generally well-received adaptations, The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and The Rosenthaler Suite (2011), Anderson writes and directs a bizarre remake of the 1937 Paul Muni biopic The Life of Emile Zola, with Jason Schwartzmann as Zola in the lead role. Though the film wins praise for its meticulous art direction, carefully composed 19th Century Paris setting and anachronistic Yves Montand soundtrack, critics savage the film. “He seems more interested in getting the waxed mustaches of French military officials correct than in understanding the life of Emile Zola,” complains one. Some over-analytical critics feel the film is a misguided attempt to refute the type of unsentimental naturalism Zola championed; others find this over-analytical criticism ridiculous and suspect Anderson just wanted to make a credible film with lots of beautiful 19th Century Paris interiors. A beautiful slow-motion scene of Emile Zola purchasing a live lobster at the Saxe-Breteuil Market for dinner and silently walking back to his apartment to the strains of Montand’s “Les Feuilles Mortes” is particularly celebrated and/or lambasted.
The Last and Best of the Peter Pans (2017). The death of J.D. Salinger in 2015 at age 94 seems to have shaken Anderson and plunged him into a period of reflection. He isolates himself in an apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for several months. The screenplay he emerges with is an account of a wealthy young heir (played by unknown John W. Stillman, Jr. in a breakout performance) who becomes the first male to graduate from a prestigious eastern women’s college and subsequently strikes up an odd friendship with a self-sacrificing Pakistani ice cream man in Central Park. Some hail it as a return to form. Detractors agree, noting it is a return to the very specific form of youthful, damaged elites in a romanticized New York City interacting with near-mute foreign-born stock characters. Reviews are mixed.
The Sisters Tagliatelli (2019). Anderson seemed here to be self-consciously addressing his reputation for consistently writing thinly developed female characters. “Three chic, mysterious women (Kat Denning, Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson) silently and mirthlessly sit around an apartment in Venice smoking for two hours and listening to Leonard Cohen,” complains one critic. “Barely a movie,” grouses another. The film is light on dialogue, heavy on “Famous Blue Raincoat.”
Mission: Impossible X:II [a.k.a. M:I:X:II] (2022). Inexplicable commercial forces compel Anderson to step in for an ailing Paul Thomas Anderson to direct Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible XII. Tom Cruise weighs 275 pounds and is former governor of Ohio. Adrien Brody and Luke Wilson play estranged twin brothers that bring Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character out of retirement when they threaten to destroy a fictional U.S. state resembling Connecticut with invisible Tesla frequencies. The soundtrack is entirely pre-T. Rex Marc Bolan solo recordings. A box office disaster, and the beloved franchise lies dormant until it is reinvigorated four years later with Sophia Coppola’s reboot The Impossible Mission.
The Black Maria (2025). Anderson’s audacious attempt to make a feature-length commercial film using turn-of-the-20th-Century silent kinetoscopic technology gets him exiled to France for ten years. The film features a grainy, stand-out performance from Anjelica Huston in her last role. The film is celebrated in certain neo-Luddite circles as America enters its sixth SuperRecession in ten years, but distribution is limited. Anderson’s insistence on a live piano score anytime the film is publically screened further cripples the film’s commercial prospects.
Rushmoreville (2035). Anderson’s 35-years-later sequel to Rushmore, written with Owen Wilson and 100-year old fellow Texan Larry McMurtry, proves one of his most controversial films. Adrien Brody steps in for the tragically deceased Jason Schwartzmann as Max Fischer, now in his forties and president of Bloom Amalgamated Offshore Manufacturing, Inc. He is confronted with the return to town of Margaret Yang, who harbors a painful secret. All assume Max and Margaret will resume their high school romance. Can these friends find equilibrium in middle age? Mixed reviews.
Seen Those English Dramas! (2037). A well-received 3D concert film of Vampire Weekend’s legendary thirtieth anniversary performance at Madison Square Garden. “Two timeless institutions make rock music history together,” enthuses one respected Internet commenter. “A bunch of twee old farts reliving the Noughties,” gripes a college-aged Internet commenter.
Well-Respected Men (2040). The death of Ray Davies in 2040 at age 96 seems to have shaken Anderson and plunged him into a period of reflection. He isolates himself in an apartment in Lambeth, London for several months. The screenplay he emerges with is an account of two eccentric, emotionally shattered musician brothers whose 1960s beat group travels from the UK to India in search of enlightenment with a large supporting cast of oddball characters. Internet commenters complain Anderson has been repeating himself for forty years, but Well-Respected Men sweeps the Oscars, including prizes for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and a long-denied award for Best Director. A generation of young American filmmakers, having grown up through the hardships of continuous SuperRecessions, idolize Anderson and admire the now-vanished, never-was world of affluence and whimsy his characters inhabit. The turbulent 2040s are marked by a resurgence of interest in his work in the American film industry. However, Bollywood now unquestionably dominates the world film establishment, and celebrated young Indian filmmakers, for some reason, are not impressed with Anderson’s body of work. His popularity remains a strictly provincial Western phenomenon. The hero of all young Bollywood filmmakers during the 2040s? Andrew Bujalski.
Anderson directs a few more lesser films until War Between the States II: This Time, It’s Personal tears the Republic into small warring factions in 2049, thus obliterating the film industry. Anderson retires to a villa in the People’s Republic of Greater Maine, where he dies peacefully in April, 2075.
- It’s chock-full of David Bowie covers. Sung over an acoustic guitar. In Portuguese.
- Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Cate Blanchett… I’m sorry, did we step into an alternate dimension in which only really cool people are allowed to be in movies?
- Jeff Goldblum gets severely injured while wearing a shirt that says “I’m A Pepper.”
- “Be still, Cody!”
- There are pirates
- This song. Also, note b0oren’s comment on said song: “this song turns me into a sea creature… that likes to party”. Too true, my friend. Too true.
- The entire movie is based on a revenge plot against a shark. As you can imagine, absurd humor abounds. If you don’t like that sort of humor, then fine, skip it… but you’ll miss the David Bowie songs.
Wes Anderson is a detail guy. Unlike most filmmakers, the director of 1998’s critically worshiped Rushmore oversees all aspects of his films, right down to the last bit of clothing. Wardrobe, in fact, plays a big role in Anderson’s latest, The Royal Tenenbaums, about a family of eccentrics who haven’t evolved, emotionally or stylewise, in decades. Esquire consulted Anderson on just how to achieve the various archetypal styles destined to sweep the nation. —LAUREN IANNOTTI
THE STYLE: Eli Cash (Owen Wilson)
IF YOU’RE GOING FOR: A writer and wannabe cowboy who grew up across the street from the Tenenbaum house.
WES SAYS: “There are elements of Cormac McCarthy here. Eli’s described as the James Joyce of the West in the film. But I think what he really wants is to be at cocktail parties at 21 with Richard Avedon and Mike Nichols. So his fringe leather jacket is from an L. A. boutique instead of being authentic Montana buckskin. He wears an LBJ-style Stetson at a little bit of an angle.”
COPY THIS LOOK: Custom-made suede fringe jacket; cotton-and-Lycra trousers ($350) by Gucci; vintage western shirt. (Completing the look are Eli’s $190 Neiman Marcus slippers, not shown.)
THE STYLE: Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson)
IF YOU’RE GOING FOR: A tennis star who suffered a breakdown on the pro circuit and has since retired.
WES SAYS: “Richie’s always dressed as if he’s on his way to the tennis court, even though he hasn’t picked up a racket in about six years. He wears sunglasses, a camel-hair suit, and a Fila headband that Bjorn Borg wore. Fila had to dig up the headbands that they used to give to Borg.”
COPY THIS LOOK: Headbands discontinued, but similar models available ($14 to $18) from Fila; camel-hair suit ($950) hand-tailored by Vahram Mateosian at Mr. Ned, New York. (Not shown are Richie’s Bass Weejun loafers, $85.)
THE STYLE: Raleigh St. Claire (Bill Murray)
IF YOU’RE GOING FOR: A kooky neurologist married to Gwyneth Paltrow.
WES SAYS: “Raleigh has a Carl Sagan-slash-Oliver Sacks aesthetic going on with the colorful-turtleneck-and-blazer combination. The full gray beard and the John Lennon—style spectacles complete the look.”
COPY THIS LOOK: Acorn- colored corduroy jacket ($600) and wide-wale corduroy pants ($150) hand- tailored by Vahram at Mr. Ned, New York; purple merino-wool turtleneck ($188) by Paul Stuart. (Raleigh also wears Clarks desert boots, $90, not shown.)
THE STYLE: Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman)
IF YOU’RE GOING FOR: A sleazy disbarred lawyer who is trying to win back his family 20 years after they kicked him out.
WES SAYS: “The look is based on Melvin Belli, the San Francisco lawyer who always wore great suits. It’s as if Royal had a fantastic wardrobe made for himself in about 1968 and things just stayed the same for him, including the Swifty Lazar glasses and the long cigarette holder.”
COPY THIS LOOK: Light-gray double-breasted, high-buttoned, oddly fitting suit ($850) hand-tailored by Vahram at Mr. Ned, New York; shirt ($295) by Charvet; custom-made tie by Brooks Brothers; leather shoes ($315) by Mephisto.
THE STYLE: Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller)
IF YOU’RE GOING FOR: A former financial whiz kid who is currently a widower and father of two.
WES SAYS: “Chas was an entrepreneur as a child and made a fortune breeding dalmatian mice, so he always wore tailored suits then. Now he and his kids wear these bright-red Adidas tracksuits all the time for safety so in a crowd they can spot each other in a second.”
COPY THIS LOOK: Custom-made tracksuit by Adidas (accompanied by Puma sneakers, $60, not shown).