Monday, November 30, 2009

Love: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox is not just the ultimate Wes Anderson film; it's also one of the most unique works of art ever released, an instant classic for kids, adults, hipsters, and the rest of us at large. It captures a magic that few, if any filmmaker has ever been able to find, and moves Anderson from beloved to genius.

Based on the classic Roald Dahl tale, Anderson’s take follows Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) through his mid-life, or 7 year-old crisis. Once a talented and adventurous bird thief, he now finds himself living in a hole with a dead end job, a beautiful wife (the perfect Meryl Streep) and a disappointment of a son (stand-out Jason Schwartzman). After an impulsive move into a larger home within a tree trunk and a visit by his talented nephew Kristofferson, Mr. Fox finds himself drawn back into his old ways and into the chicken coups of big box farming operators Boggis, Bunce, and Bean (Michael Gambon).

Like all Anderson movies (most notably The Royal Tenebaums), this film occupies a strange mental and physical space that’s both beautiful and intriguing, always evoking a nostalgia that you can’t quite place but know deep in your heart. But unlike his other films, it’s as if everything that is Wes Anderson was finally allowed to fully germinate and blooms in this entirely stop motion film. Every shot contains an inventive touch that harkens back the genius of Chuck Jones’ Looney Tunes and the twisted beauty of Dahl’s England, the town and interiors mirroring Dahl’s own home and village. One of the most beautiful and haunting scenes is a glimpse of a wolf across the road; an iconic image that has forever been burned on my brain. The scene pictured below is another example (especially when the boys turn off the lights and switch on a play train that slides into the "real" train on the outside), so rich in atmosphere that it leaves me smiling every time I get a glimpse of it.

Anderson is known for being an obsessive, difficult, and anal-retentive director, all characteristics that allowed him to complete such an impressive work. The film is flawless in its execution. Close-ups on the foxes’ faces are expressive and incredibly lifelike. Smoke and flowing water feel real and visceral even if they are just a few cotton balls strung together. Most importantly, the foxes and celebrity voices melt into their surroundings, allowing the film to shake off any box it might have been forced into. Combined with the hilarious, snappy script by Noah Baumbach (Anderson fanboy of The Squid and the Whale fame), you forget you’re watching animals or Clooney on screen and fall in love with each character independently.

The music is the final piece of the puzzle. Anderson throws a mix of Beach Boys, Burl Ives, and The Wellingtons among others, my favorite being the inclusion of the love story from Disney’s Robin Hood (which starred two foxes).

I don’t know what else to say, other than it’s utterly, indelibly, and totally fantastic. You'll just have to see it yourself.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite line from the movie: "A TITANIUM Express Card??"


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