There’s a great moment in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou when Zissou – his aquatic search thrown off-course by hijackers – mounts a counter-attack to rescue his hostaged crew.
The film slows down and Iggy & The Stooges’ Search and Destroy kicks in as Zissou, played by Bill Murrey, charges forward. Anderson’s been criticised for over-using music in his films, but his song choice and approach, and generally actually, really connect for me.
This continues with Anderson’s latest film, a stop motion animation of the Roald Dahl book Fantastic Mr Fox, and a scene of which reminded me of Zissou’s heroic run.It came as Mr Fox and his family, pursed with murderous intent by the mechanical diggers of the three frightful farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, dig for their lives and the scene is given a charge of electricity from The Rolling Stones’ Street Fighting Man. As anyone who knows the shot of adrenaline the right song can inject, whether in film, on the dance floor, soundtracking a run or simply dancing around the kitchen, it provided a ratcheting up of the excitement levels and made me smile out loud.
Generally the film leans away from Anderson’s usually more indie song choices, favouring more of a golden oldie appoach (The Beach Boys feature prominently).
Aside from his use of music, Fantastic Mr Fox continues Anderson’s asthetic – of which I’m a big fan – in a number of other ways. The attention to, and care for, detail are again present. From the ears of corn in the breast pocket of the George Cloney-voiced Mr Fox’s tweed jacket, to the rules, equipment and field layout for the invented game of hot box.
Looking back again to The Life Aquatic, the cut-away ‘boy’s annual’ view that film brings to Zissou’s ship is again present views of the tunnels, farms and sewers of Fantastic Mr Fox.
Sewers? That’s right. Along with a yoga-practicising, karate expert cousin, a side order of high-school romantic conflict and a large helping of father-son complexes, Anderson, who co-wrote the screenplay, has expanded Dahl’s tale in unexpected and delightful ways to make a film I already want to see again.
Going to the cinema was a half-term treat for A, but one I’d planned for myself too ever since I heard of Anderson’s involved. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to the cinema to see something I actually wanted to see, as opposed for a school holidays treat for A. So along the way there’s been Over The Hedge, King Fu Panda (actually that wasn’t bad) and Monsters Vs Aliens.
Coraline looked like being the first kids film I’d enjoy seeing, until I saw the looks on A and his friend’s faces when the trailor came on during Monster Vs Aliens and then that didn’t seem likely. I think perhaps it was the eyes replaced by buttons that scuppered my chances there.
But as soon as I heard about Fantastic Mr Fox over the summer I told A we would be going to see it.
It was perfect really, his school recently celebrated ‘Roald Dahl day’ as the half term ended. When I dropped him off in double costume – first the peach, then James underneath (or just his regular clothes if looked at closely) – the school looked to be the very definition of organised chaos. It was more perfect because we went on my birthday, the three of us with baby K looked after by parents.
Assorted Wikipedia miscellania
• It is the first animated film directed by Wes Anderson, and 20th Century Fox’s first stop-motion animated film.
• It began as a collaboration between Anderson and Henry Selick (who worked with Anderson on the 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).
• Then when the studio they were working with folded, Selick left to direct Coraline.
• Anderson chose to record voices outside rather than in a studio.
• Talking of his production plans he said: “We want to use real trees and real sand, but it’s all miniature.”
• The animation, which took place in London, saw Anderson direct the same crew who animated Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.