Is it the sign of a truly successful filmmaker to have a style that is so instantly recognizable and reproducible that it spawns countless parodies, or does it indicate a style that has lost some of its dynamism and creativity by virtue of its susceptibility to such reduction? Does a filmmaker have an obligation to vary up his or her style, or is extreme consistency more useful in order to draw out finer points through the variation on the theme? Do on-screen allusions to the filmmaker’s off-screen life tend to cause more confusion or add rich subtext to the main action? If you pour your life and soul into your craft but its broad base of appeal lies in Bill Murray smoking pot, does that cheapen or distract from the artistic value of the work?
Such are just a few questions to ask Wes Anderson, who is almost a victim of his own quirky success when it comes to how his fan base has accepted his work. Anderson probably has the most consistent style of today’s filmmakers, instantly recognizable by the precocious precision of each frame of film, the mannered yet eccentric and internally-conflicted characters, the international and cosmopolitan backdrops, and the essential dual-track bildungsroman plot line.
“It’s difficult,” he acknowledges. “I don’t want to repeat myself, but of course I do repeat myself. I have my own personality and some people are going to like that and others are not. I think some people find it very annoying when they feel that a film-maker’s signature is too visible. But without ever quite making that choice, that tends to be the way I make ’em. You can spot ’em a mile off.”
Regardless of Anderson’s potential in other styles of filmmaking (even The Fantastic Mr. Fox wasn’t much of a deviation), the fact that he is actually talking to an audience, and in some ways giving that audience more tools with which to converse, makes him one of the best filmmakers out there today. The fact that people are talking back just proves it.