Author: Anahid Yahjian
The recent advent of “indie” culture, rising from the depths of the underground and pervading the streets of middle class America, has brought with it the inevitable mass-marketing of its fashion and music. With companies like Urban Outfitters cashing in on people’s curiosity and essentially nullifying the subculture’s core philosophy of singularity, it’s a wonder the self-mutilated bodies of indie kids aren’t turning up all over the place.
There does, however, seem to be an exception in the case of independent film, despite its increased visibility in recent years. Though low-budget works like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Thirteen have had mainstream success both financially and critically, the majority of independent films have remained mostly tailored to their audience.
It is, however, always nice to see an old favorite slowly rise amongst the ranks of its mainstream counterparts and make a name for itself. This may be the case with the September 29 limited release of Wes Anderson’s latest, The Darjeeling Limited. The release brought a certain hysteria that surely caught the attention of long-time Anderson fans. At the same time, this hysteria made this film the first of his to finally start crossing over into the mainstream. Beyond the advertising that far exceeded that for his previous films, Darjeeling garnered extensive attention in Los Angeles after back-to-back events were planned throughout Hollywood in lieu of the wide release of the film.
Perhaps as a result of organizers’ zeal and anticipation of the long-awaited film, simultaneous “preview” nights were organized by industry coalition Film Independent and the American Cinametheque on the night of October 3, with promises of Anderson and cast members being present after both screenings for a question and answer session. This may have been a result of the hype produced by actor Owen Wilson’s apparent suicide attempt, as well as the iTunes release of Hotel Chevalier, a 13 minute short meant to precede Darjeeling.
Cinematheque organizers continued on with an Anderson retrospective series they had organized for that week at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. The following two nights—October 4 and 5—offered double features of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, and Bottle Rocket and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, respectively. The second night sold fewer tickets, but the atmosphere was as exciting as ever.
Built in 1939, the Aero is a small, single screen theater with about 400 seats and a modest concession stand. The audience attending the double feature showed a sense of genuine love for both Bottle Rocket and The Life Aquatic. The crowd, a motley crew of artist types, teenagers and middle-aged couples, demonstrated appreciation—and memorization—of Anderson’s trademark visual and storytelling style, evident through their perfectly timed laughs and energy between showings. It was great to see Anderson’s first and—until Darjeeling—latest works on the big screen once more and to see how his style has gradually transformed over time, even though he tends to work with the same actors.
Though Darjeeling isn’t set for wide release until October 26, it has begun showing at various Laemmle theater locations throughout Southern California. It tells the story of brothers Francis, Jack and Peter (played by Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody, respectively) as they embark on a spiritual trip through India aboard the Darjeeling Limited train. The film is typical Wes Anderson: the dialogue is blunt and ironic, the characters are blase yet endearing and the color, locations, costumes and props are magnificent and almost childlike in detail. The characters are constantly framed in straight-on head shots and move through scenes with a camera dollying alongside their profiles and it all ends in a slow-motion clip.
The story is—as usual—relatively plot-less, allowing space for witty phrases, such as Francis bringing attention to a group of kids trying to cross a river by saying “Look at these assholes.” The lack of plot also leaves room for clever detail of props and costumes-such as the embroidered pajamas that the brothers wear, Jack’s yellow robe from the Hotel Chevalier and the family’s trademark palm tree-and-wildcat-decorated luggage (designed by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton)-to tickle the audience’s sense of humor and heartstrings, immediately creating a bond.
The Darjeeling Limited is slowly rising in the box office, with a cumulative gross of over two million dollars three weeks after its release. The film is still being advertised, and endless discussions can be found in forums all over the Internet about whether or not it’s worth seeing. It can be said for sure, though, that every Wes Anderson fan out there is to see it, love it and place it next to Bottle Rocket and the rest of his movies in their minds—what sort of indie kids would they be if they didn’t?
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