Wes Anderson & Auteur Theory

According to Dick (1990), what is now known as the theory of authorship has its roots in World War II, when during the German occupation, France had no access to American films. However, after the end of the war, their “rediscovery (…) led to a reconsideration of the director as artist” (145). Dick argues that what truly impressed the French was the fact that despite being handed screenplays and casts they had no role in choosing, the Hollywood directors could still leave a traces of their personality all throughout the film.

In 1951 Andre Bazin and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze founded ‘Cahiers du Cinema’, “which quickly became the major reference for major French Film studies” (Lanzoni, 2004: 206). In an article published in ‘Cahiers du Cinema’, ‘Une certain tendance du cinema francais’ (1954), Francois Truffaut attacked the old French film directors for their literary adaptations which, he believed, looked more like theatre pieces than screenplays. It was thus Truffaut’s call for the directors to be the authors of their films that gave rise to the French New wave. It is within this particular context that I will try and demonstrate the author qualities of Wes Anderson, using “Rushmore” (1998), “Bottle Rocket” (1996) and “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) as examples of his work.

The members of the ‘Cahiers’ group were tired of how, within the French Film System, the emphasis was put more on the script rather than on the cinematic elements and thus tried to change this perception. What they wanted to create was films that were interesting, stimulating and thought provoking, films that were unique and had a personal touch. And in order to create this personal touch, French New Wave directors either worked with each other or used certain actors that would put across and play with their own character.  And this is exactly what Wes Anderson is doing as well, surrounding himself with a cast that almost has the feel of a family. Ever since his first film, “Bottle Rocket”, Bill Murray has been in every single one of the following ones, Schwartzman featured in five, while Owen Wilson co-wrote three and played in five. In an interview published in the Guardian, he explained the reason behind this. He argued that between friends there is always a certain energy that turns into a unique unpremeditated on-screen chemistry and which the audience enjoys seeing (Anderson 2012).

All his films represent a fairytale, an escape from real life, which can at times be boring, sad or hurtful. It is the view of a world through young and immature eyes. Furthermore, Anderson’s characters never follow any of the Hollywood’s canons, as their travel always turns into a self-discovery journey. Prevalent themes in his films are: alienation, the childlike man, dysfunctional families, relationships (in which, making reference to his own childhood, he always emphasizes the lack of one of the key parental figures), sentimentality, dealing with death.

As for the technical elements that make his films easily recognizable, Anderson uses specific framing, color and sound techniques. On a wide shot, the characters are almost always positioned in the corner of the image, while during close-ups they face the camera directly.

Color wise, every film has a particular hue scheme (yellow in “Bottle Rocket”, yellow-green and pale blue in “Moonrise Kingdom” and beige in “Rushmore”). The soundtrack also plays a very important role, sometimes even acting as a separate character (for example, mostly symphonic and orchestra in “Moonrise Kingdom”).

Another feature that can be found all throughout Anderson’s films that is worth being mentioned is the fact that he always uses the same font, Futura. It is thus another one of the characteristic elements that make his work easily identifiable and strengthens his auteur qualities.


ANDERSON, W., 2012. Interview by Francesca Babb on 19 May. [online]The Guardian. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/may/19/wes-anderson-moonrise-kingdom [Accessed 1 March 2013].

DICK, B.F., 1990. Anatomy of Film. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

HILLER, J., 1985. Cahier Du Cinema, the 1950s: Neo-realism, Hollywood, New Wave. UK: Harvard University Press.

LANZONI, R.F., 2002. French Cinema: from its beginnings to the present. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group.


~ by andragroza2013 on March 6, 2013.

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