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IN DEFENSE OF Auteur Fatigue

In Defense of

Wes Anderson 
& Tim Burton
I finally got a chance to catch enough courage over the weekend to catch Dark Shadows, under the most ideal of circumstances.  The matinee price was cheap, the decision to go was impulse and my expectations couldn’t be lower.
Interestingly enough, I also caught Wes Anderson’s latest lament, Moonrise Kingdom, which I expect will share the same sort of backlash that our old pal Mr. Burton finds himself knee-deep in.

As we creep into our cineplexes wondering if Battleship was even a good idea in the first place, and reflect with deep cynicism that Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter might be taking itself a tad too seriously with that trailer, let us first explore the perils of two modern-day movie auteurs that dared to go first this Summer.

As you know from a previous post, the promos for Dark Shadows alone were enough to send this fan into shock.  Thankfully, having seen the film, I can honestly say that Burton hasn’t completely reduced his style to pure imitation of self.

Sure, the film contains jokes that fall flat before they begin, and it isn’t helped by a dreadfully out of place music montage that advances the character of Barnabas through “Top of the World” by The Carpenters.

But one of the better bizarre variations on the original series comes directly from its season two, in which Barnabas searches in the Collinwood fireplace for a secret lever revealing hidden jewels.  Instead, Burton’s Barnabas reveals a secret room containing Elizabeth Collins’ (played to all-knowing perfection by Michelle Pfeiffer) macrame owl collection.

It’s a scene played so straight, without a hint of camp or irony that you actually kind of start buying into the 1972 twist that the filmmakers felt they needed to inflict.

Dark Shadows is a strangely bastardized revamp that’s both satire and homage, but with a loving wink only Tim Burton could get away with.

I was surprised, and frankly relieved, to find a lot of the original series’ melodrama retained stylistically.  I wasn’t surprised to find a lot of the typical Burton trademarks.

Burton may not have made a great film since Big Fish, but he certainly hasn’t lost his cinematic bravado.   Dark Shadows is thankfully the deviant byproduct of a kid in a candy store, which way too little supervision.

Given the disappointing box-office results, things might get a lot more structured for the director’s next turn behind the camera, which can only be a good thing.  Tim Burton’s best work came from being miserably retrained.  I expect big things from his future.

Equally as isolated and rebellious are the main characters of Wes Anderson’s latest comedy Moonrise Kingdom.

Opening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and fairly celebrated for its quirky tale of a young “khaki scout” gone AWOL, the movie has garnered outstanding reviews and record-breaking opening weekend numbers.

But I’m afraid this time around for Wes Anderson might be met with a little backfire from general audiences and maybe even his fans.

The new film is his most stylistically controlled yet, which is to say if you’re not a big fan of Anderson’s trademarks, get ready for overload.

Whereas Tim Burton has been accused of lifting and basically remaking key sequences from Bettlejuice or Edward Scissorhands instead of relaunching the beloved tale of the Collins family, Moonrise can most easily be accused of rehashing Rushmore with prepubescent scouts.

Not that this is a bad thing.  Rushmore, while not my favorite of his movies, is certainly Wes Anderson’s shining moment and the one that elevated him beyond the quirky debut of Bottle Rocket.

Again, Bill Murray under Anderson’s direction, steals every scene he is in, but it’s newbie Jared Gilman (in a hysterically charming performance) that elevates the movie above Rushmore clone.

He’s a variation on every lead geek outsider, yet still unique enough to carry the story.

Unlike Tim Burton though, Wes Anderson proves with Moonrise Kingdom that he doesn’t need Imax or post-3D conversion to amplify his auteurism.

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