Friday, July 13, 2007

rushmore, by wes anderson

p>Regular readers of this blog may have noted that I've been doing a lot more writing about film recently, both because of the film class I taught in the spring and the newfound convenience of getting eclectic films in my hands (via Netflix). This trend is likely to continue for a while, since on my roadtrip to Texas, Skunkcabbage and I decided to try to get together and watch a film a week—ideally to blog about it.

Thus formed, our two-man film club met for the first time yesterday, starting off with Wes Anderson's Rushmore, a film I picked, not least because it has a few things to say on the perils and joys of club-foundation:

Those of you who have seen the film will remember that the Bombardment Society is only one of a staggering number of extra-curricular activities that Max (our protagonist) is involved in. Special props to the Criterion Contraption for astutely pointing out something I hadn't fully realized before, namely, that "Max's manias are fueled by unhappiness as much as narcissism," that they form "a calculated campaign of distraction from genuine pain." (Whether my film club and ambient workaholism is the same is a puzzle for some future therapist to figure out.)

In any case. What I really want to talk about today is not Max Fisher at all, but rather film noir. Skunkcabbage, I think rightly, zeroed in on a faint noir flavor present in the film; in his write-up he refers to the film as "noir played prosaic." I think he's right about this, although I think that, like Hal Hartley, Wes Anderson is influenced less by noir directly, and more by these conventions as filtered down through the French New Wave (specifically Godard). (For an example of how noir conventions might transpose to a school setting without taking this circuitous route, one might try the very fine Brick (2005), by Rian Johnson.)

One effect that thinking about Rushmore as a noir has is that it highlights some of Anderson's lovely, idiosyncratic choices. For instance, the character in the film who is probably the most traditionally noir-ish is this guy:

This is the character (winningly played by Mason Gamble) who utters crackerjack tough-guy lines like "I know about you and the teacher" and "Who sold you that crock?"

Wes Anderson films aren't without their problems (I've written about some of them here), but I really do stand by Rushmore as a great film. I could go on (to talk about Rushmore without talking about Bill Murray's career-defining performance is folly), but I've got other things today that need doing.

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