Having triumphed with critics after opening the Cannes Film Festival, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom is quickly becoming one of the most successful indie films of the year thanks to the fantastically incomparable cinematic voice of director Wes Anderson. A voice amplified by the superlative use of some of the greatest music of the last century. While any fool can add a decent song to the background to try and generate mood music, Mr. Anderson’s auditory picks help tell the story in a way that is uniquely Wes. Here’s some of our favourite moments.
Love – ‘Alone Again Or’
And so it begins. One would assume that the budgetary constraints inherent within any début would limit the use of some big musical guns, but Wes Anderson’s need for the right song means he manages to find a place for some pretty heavy hitters in The Rolling Stones and The Proclaimers. Despite the inclusion of Mick and Keef the stand out track for Bottle Rocket belongs to Love with ‘Alone Again Or’. As his plans of criminal excellence are sidetracked once again, Luke Wilson’s ineffectual felon takes the time out to visit the ‘Housekeeper’, his new found love, and the one person who can really pull him out of his depressive state. Falling onto a scuzzy unmade bed in a cheap motel, the two lovers embrace to the negative lyrics, implying a gloominess the tune negates. Away from the romantic element, the song still works, shining a light on the differences and similiarities between the pessimism of Luke’s Anthony with Owen’s Dignan, the eternal optimist.
Perfect Lyric: “I think that people are the greatest fun/And I will be alone again tonight my dear.”
The Faces – ‘Ooh La La’
So many moments to pick from Wes Anderson’s sophomore feature. It could have been The Kinks’ ‘Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin’ Bout’ That Girl’ accompanying Bill Murray’s Benjamin Braddock impression or either of the Harold and Maude aping Cat Stevens numbers ‘The Wind’ and ‘Here Comes My Baby’. Instead we’ve opted for the all encompassing closer ‘Ooh La La’ by The Faces. After the climax of yet another momentous school play by Max Fischer and his players, the teenage director/writer/lead finally learns to be happy in himself. Taking to the dancefloor with his one time unrequited love, Ms Cross, Max turns google-eyed once more as Ronnie Wood intones about the joyfully worthless want for hindsight. Just before the credits roll the realisation becomes wonderfully apparent that there won’t be a one defining moment when you become an adult and that, in truth, nobody ever really grows up.
Perfect Lyric: “But love is blind and you soon will find/You’re just a boy again.”
The Royal Tenenbaums
Elliott Smith – ‘Needle In The Hay’
Again, either choice of Gywneth’s dreamy stroll to Nico’s These Days or Paul Simon’s opening Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard could have been worthy picks but the defining moment within the Tenenbaums story belongs to Luke Wilson and Elliott Smith. Proving that Anderson’s influences aren’t just limited to Hal Ashby, the director explicitly invokes Martin Scorsese’s short The Big Shave for the act two turning point of Richie’s suicide attempt. With Anderson briefly stepping out of his 60’s jukebox he found a song from Elliott Smith’s self-titled second album that couldn’t have been bettered. Filled with the pain of a musician whose depression was well documented, the choice took on a whole new level of poignancy when just two years later, Smith died, reportedly from self-inflicted stab wounds to the heart. The autopsy, however, proved inconclusive.
Perfect Lyric: “But you idiot kid/You don’t have a clue.”
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Sigur Rós – ‘Staralfur’
One film soundtrack. One artist. As his hero Hal Ashby did with Harold and Maude and Cat Stevens so too did Wes Anderson for The Life Aquatic, picking Brazilian singer/songwriter Seu Jorge to bring to the big screen his interpretations of David Bowie. For us though, the stand out musical moment is the dialogue-free denouement of Steve and co, transfixed by the infamous Jaguar Shark and the other-worldy (this time a world 30,00 leagues down) sound of Sigur Rós.
Perfect Lyric: “Blá náttfötin klæða mig í/Beint upp í rúm.”
The Darjeeling Limited
Peter Sarstedt – ‘Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?
While it only features in the main, Peter Sarstedt’s love letter to a rich girl lost is the heart and soul of the preceding short film Hotel Chevalier. As Jason Schwartzman’s Jack waits patiently for his ex-girlfriend he arranges his suite in the eponymous hotel, cuing up the song to play upon her arrival. With the lyrics being equally vitriolic and heartbroken, tackling an almost mythical female at the centre of every man’s world, it’s a perfect choice for Jack’s hopeless state of being. A state that only the life changing trip to India might finally jolt him out of. The apposition of Peter Sarstedt’s piece, concerned with the past, alongside The Kinks ‘This Time Tomorrow’, an ode to the possibilities of the future, illustrates just how vital the use of music can be to tell a story correctly. And it shows just how good Mr. Anderson is at articulating that fact.
Perfect Lyric: “He sent you a race horse for Christmas/And you keep it just for fun/For a laugh, A-ha-ha-ha.”
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Beach Boys – ‘Heroes and Villains’
The decision to allow an American director and a mainly American cast to adapt one of Britain’s most beloved books ruffled a few furs at the time but there’s such affection for the material in Wes’ animation that all geographical objections are put to one side. Fantastic Mr Fox’s visual inventiveness kicks off perfectly with the upbeat/downbeat mix of the Beach Boys’ ‘Heroes and Villains’ as Mr and Mrs Vulpes Vulpes cartwheel and somersault across a farm to the tune of Brian Wilson and friends in order to steal some birds. Special mention should go to Jarvis Cocker’s ode to Mr. Fox, complete with improvisational “bad songwriting” chastising from Michael Gambon. The stop-motion Pulp singer looks pretty spot-on too.
Perfect Lyric: “Fell in love years ago with an innocent girl.”