September 14, 2021

"In considering the setting for his movie, [Wes] Anderson wanted something like Paris, but a version that doesn’t exist anymore outside of cinema..."

"... like the one of wonder captured by 'The Red Balloon,' and one of whimsy captured by Jacques Tati. One of the film’s producers, Jeremy Dawson, said that Anderson was looking for a place 'with nooks and crannies, corridors, passages, staircases, layers and ramparts.' The filmmakers began their scouting search on Google, digitally navigating the streets of towns that might fit the bill. Then they hit the road to visit a few of them. While in Angoulême, they came across a plaza with a small cafe. Dawson recalled that Anderson suggested grabbing lunch at the cafe. 'When he said that, I knew he’d picked this town,' Dawson said. Angoulême, in the southwest of France with a population of about 42,000, is no stranger to invasions; during the Hundred Years’ War, it was the site of battles between the French and English. These visitors were much more benign. During the shoot, the crew came up with various ways to give the town’s old-world collection of buildings, streets and facades a bit of an Andersonized touch — a cute little vintage vehicle parked here, a peppy striped awning set up there. And sometimes miniatures were used to help enhance the setting...."

I like that they scouted for the location using Google "street view." At no cost, we can all scout for locations for our movies. What's yours? You have an idea of a foreign place, and, instead of researching and learning what that place is really like, you search for the real place that's closest to that image in your head. Is there something wrong with that?

The NYT excerpt has links to 2 trailers of old films — both of which have been on my list of selected films at the Criterion Collection for about as long as I've been a subscriber (2 months). There's "The Red Balloon":

 

And that "whimsy captured by Jacques Tati" is "Playtime":


I'm about a third of the way through "Playtime." Something I texted someone while I was watching it: "possibly the most artistic and sophisticated thing I’ve ever seen."

27 comments:

Temujin said...

Welp. "Playtime" just shot up to #1 on my playlist. Any trailer that can make me laugh out loud and smile throughout is a must see for me. Looking forward to it. Thanks for the tip.

Wes Anderson movies are all very much of a kind. They definitely have his signature on them. And pretty much every one I've seen is good, but I always feel like it should have, or could have been better. No great movies from him, but many good ones, and always unique and creative worlds in which they take place.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I was totally charmed by "Moonrise Kingdom." My wife gave up about the end of the opening credits. I don't know why: the deliberately childish artificiality? The tone of: wouldn't it be great if everything was like this? A fairy-tale quality? Neither my wife nor I spend a lot of time on literal fairy tales. She doesn't like anything that screams "indie," black and white, so-called silent movies, etc. I love Buster Keaton. She insisted on walking out on Terence Malick's "Tree of Life"; I like that movie very much.

Unknown said...

If you have not experienced Google street view in virtual reality it is a revelation. You can virtually visit Machu Picchu, the Colleseum, Stonehenge, and so much more. Other than that you can't hear the sounds or smell the smells, it is very much like being there, seeing it with your own eyes.

rehajm said...

How have you not seen Playtime? And you, an art student…

Unless someone develops a Wes Anderson algorithm scouting Google would be too unrewarding, like a drug dog in a mormon church or something. I do enjoy Accidentally Wes Anderson to see what others have discovered. Instant Anderson gratification.

MalaiseLongue said...

I love Playtime! When I first saw it, I laughed so hard that I went back the next day and saw it again.

tcrosse said...

The British did a TV series of Maigret in 1992, but Paris no longer looks like it did in the early 50s, so they filmed in Budapest, which was sufficiently run-down at the time.

Howard said...

Wes Anderson films are all pretty good unlike the Cohen Bros and QT who have clunkers that fail yet manage to get into the Kubrick stratosphere on occasion. He needs to take more risk and work with new (to him) actors.

Joe Smith said...

Anderson is quirky for the sake of being quirky.

If you like that sort of thing then he is great.

But is just seems so affected. If you've seen one of his films you've seen them all...

Ralph L said...

What's going on in the rocking Citroen in Playtime?
I hope the movie isn't all <2 second clips. How can people stand shows like that?

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

San Sebastián in northwest Spain is a perfect little fishing village. Also called Donostia by the locals who speak Basque. I don’t know how Google sees it but it matched by mind’s image of a quaint Euro town to a T. That it’s just a short drive south of Biarritz is icing on the cake.

Farmer said...

The Playtime trailer makes it look like a Jerry Lewis film without Jerry Lewis.

Kai Akker said...

The trailer looks beautiful and a 4K restoration from the negative could be sensational. IMdb shows an original 65mm negative for PlayTime (1967). That's a lot of pixel potential.

Narr said...

The trailer for Playtime is clever, but I can't listen to that music. Is the whole movie like that?

PM said...

Think that's dead center, Wes. See what you think.
Move it as little to the right. No, too much. Back a little. Perfect.

Joe Smith said...

'Something I texted someone while I was watching it: "possibly the most artistic and sophisticated thing I’ve ever seen."'

Just watched the trailer...to your thoughts I would add 'technical brilliance.'

Setting up the shots and choreographing the movements must have been insanely challenging...as challenging as imagining them in the first place.

rcocean said...

Playtime is one of those movies you can see again and again and pick up new things. However, I wish it was funnier and not so intellectual and subtle. Its a great movie on DVD, because you can go to the parts you like.

Ann Althouse said...

"If you have not experienced Google street view in virtual reality it is a revelation."

What do I need to buy to do this? I really want this but not if it's not good enough (and not if it gives me vertigo).

Ann Althouse said...

"I love Playtime! When I first saw it, I laughed so hard that I went back the next day and saw it again."

I think there are only 3 examples of films I went back to the next day and saw again:

1. "My Dinner With Andre"

2&3. The double feature of "Strozek" and "Aguirre the Wrath of God."

I have sat through movies and stayed to watch it again. I think we did that with "Star Wars" (when I was in my 20s), and I know I did it with "Bye Bye Birdie" (when I was 12).

Ann Althouse said...

"The Playtime trailer makes it look like a Jerry Lewis film without Jerry Lewis."

The connective tissue is Frank Tashlin. The French were in love with the Lewis movies directed by Tashlin, and Tashlin was a huge deal to them especially the movie "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" That movie didn't star Lewis, but it seems to have influenced Tati.

Tashlin's style was honed in Warner Brothers animation and transferred to live-action films.

From that 500 songs podcast I keep pushing:

"The Girl Can’t Help It was rather poorly reviewed in America. In France it was a different story. There’s a pervasive legend that the people of France revere Jerry Lewis as a genius. This is nonsense. But the grain of truth in it is that Cahiers du Cinema, the most important film magazine in France by a long way — the magazine for which Godard, Truffaut, and others wrote, and which popularised the concept of auteur theory, absolutely loved Frank Tashlin. In 1957, Tashlin was the only director to get two films on their top ten films of the year list — The Girl Can’t Help It at number eight, and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter at number two. The other eight films on the list were directed by Chaplin, Fellini, Hitchcock, Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman, Nicholas Ray, Fritz Lang and Sidney Lumet. Tashlin directed several films starring Jerry Lewis, and those films, like Tashlin’s other work, got a significant amount of praise in the magazine. And that’s where that legend actually comes from, though Cahiers did also give some more guarded praise to some of the films Lewis directed himself later. Tashlin wasn’t actually that good a director, but what he did have is a visual style that came from a different area of filmmaking than most of his competitors. Tashlin had started out as a cartoon director, working on Warner Brothers cartoons. He wasn’t one of the better directors for Warners, and didn’t direct any of the classics people remember from the studio — he mostly made forgettable Porky Pig shorts. But this meant he had an animator’s sense for a visual gag, and thus gave his films a unique look. For advocates of auteur theory, that was enough to push him into the top ranks."

Michael E. Grost writes:

"Frank Tashlin's Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957) often anticipates Jacques Tati's Playtime (1966). Both take place in ultra modern office environments, whose sterile but clean and fresh backgrounds form omnipresent environments for the characters. Both satirize their settings, but with an underlying sympathy and lack of malice. Both directors use long takes, and both keep their characters in motion. The two films have a similar "look", probably due to their settings, and watching Tashlin's film one often feels that one is in Tati's."

Ann Althouse said...

"I hope the movie isn't all <2 second clips. How can people stand shows like that?"

From something I just quoted: "Both directors [Tati and Tashlin] use long takes..."

In "Playtime," there are very stable shots that you look at for a long time but stuff is happening. It's artfully choreographed, to the point where, if you are aesthetically sensitive, it might make you cry. I have trouble keeping watching it just because it's so demanding to keep an eye on everything. But I am deeply touched that they took such care mapping it all out and executing the action. It's very elegant.

wildswan said...

I'm hoping Playtime which is on Prime waiting for me doesn't have a narrative or a meaning, it never did before. Thanks

Lurker21 said...

I think I saw "The Red Balloon" in French class and seem to remember thinking that it was weird because there wasn't much (or any?) talking in the movie, but we weren't actually learning much French, so I guess it was understandable.

...

I saw a Godard movie twice, just to make sure that the movie the critics loved and I hated was the same one. It was.

...

Loved Wes Anderson, but Island of Dogs was a disappointment. Elisabeth Moss is a bad sign. Too much baggage from the The Handmaid's Tale. It's hard to separate her from all that.

Lurker21 said...

Angoulême, in the southwest of France with a population of about 42,000, is no stranger to invasions; during the Hundred Years’ War, it was the site of battles between the French and English.

I wonder about asides like that -- not the reference to the Hundred Years' War, but the "no stranger to invasions." Do they spice up the writing, or just make it more annoying?

Baceseras said...

Well I'm not going to put a hex on him or anything, but betcha Wes Anderson doesn't get any closer to Tati's grace and humor than Chevy Chase did -- though (unless I miss my guess) Anderson's try will fall wide the complete opposite way to Chevy's.

Tati's special grace is that his perfectionism and his comic spirit aren't two separate things; they work together as one because they are one. He can prepare the most painstaking details without killing the spontaneity of the ensemble. It's a rare trait, one that links him to Keaton and Chaplin; in the sound era he stands almost alone.

Joe Smith said...

'Loved Wes Anderson, but Island of Dogs was a disappointment.'

I was looking forward to this as I've lived in Japan...I could hardly stay awake.

But it was fun trying to read all of the background signs and graphics.

Leora said...

Larry McMurtry's Thalia (Archer City) does it for me. Ms Althouse really should watch "The Last Picture Show." There are very few movies that stuck with me visually as much as that one.

Lem said...

What's yours? You have an idea of a foreign place, and, instead of researching and learning what that place is really like, you search for the real place that's closest to that image in your head.

It would take me past midnight.