21 October 2007

Review: The Darjeeling Limited


Genre: Drama

I feel the urgent, 2:30am kind of pressing to post finally about this film, Mr. Anderson's latest work and probably his best. Why do I feel this urgency, you ask? I feel it, my dear friend, because there are many supposed "critics" out there who have completely missed the mark, the very finite, very clear mark set by Mr. Anderson by this film; a film that does not for lack of their animadversions lack in itself complexity, intelligence, or resonance of screenplay, a film that is not just a "visual stunner" without substance, and a film that does not slough but does chug along merrily, as though it were the exotic best friend of a certain other little engine who had also realized a possibility. Indeed, Mr. Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited presents a simple thesis, indeed that thesis' progression so condign, but it also presents that thesis in a finely hewn eloquence that builds upon itself in a rolling, advancing but never bulking fashion that never ceases to lose its balancing humor.
Truly the wit of Mr. Anderson, the kind of trademark that one is never ashamed to call one's own, or should not be, bubbles out the probably otherwise slagging roller-y of the plotline into an effervescent solution one is forever extremely pleased to quaff. And this wit extends, not only from the pentip - or the keyboard - but also from the lens as well; for just one glance at the dangling and limp hand of Mr. Brody, whose character sleeps on the top half of a bunk bed, or at the persistently unshod Mr. Schwartzman is enough to set any perspicacious and comprehensive film-goer a-chuckle. Smart beauty, yes, smart beauty is most likely the best description one could come up with of the intentions behind the camera. Imbuing in shot after shot flat parallel lines, smooth edges that do not dissever life from limb , and sapphire and deep gemstone colors that flow tidally in the tradition (of the beliefs) of Kandinsky, the cinematography of Darjeeling is exceptionally well handled, both reflective and supportive of the direction, action, and play.
The screenplay also sparkles in a way that hearkens to real artistry in the incredible amount of care spent crafting the details that sculpt out the world of the brothers from the meagre consensus. The brothers are, not only outfitted with accessories and set dressings that elaborate the natures of their relationships and their pasts and personalities, but are also written with a level of intimacy and real, working complexity rarely seen in films that must by convention stretch whole supposed people and their dramatic archs into the average span of ~1hr45min. It is a definite credit to the scripting abilities of all three of the writers that such deep characters can be so smoothly rendered in combination and other complication with one another.
Furthermore, I must mention that the actors were all incredibly fine and endearing in their portrayals of the three nuanced travelling brothers and their en-route ensemble. Mr. Wilson constructs what I think is likely his best performance to date, and Mr. Brody was in film general particularly fine.
My one complaint against this film is that it lacks the incisive quality I would so have loved to see in an introspective drama. A. O. Scott at the Times said it best, when he wrote that some scenes, which in any other film would have merited the highest ambition toward delivering the most compelling emotions, (e. g., the funeral scene) in Mr. Anderson's world tend toward delivering the most compelling aesthetics rather than dramatics. This comment, for me at least, is not to say that the dramatics are entirely absent or oft forgotten in these aesthetic explorations, but rather just that the dramatics are sublimated and subordinated by the aim the provide the consistency of a visual text, which is not a shameful aim in the least. Visual consistency, a promise so lacking in the world of film today, is to this film-goer a welcome surprise regardless of the stringencies it engenders in delivering a unhampered, still solid film.
Congratulations, Mr. Anderson and Co. Ignore the bleary-eyed professions of the masses and keep doing what you do so well.

Grade: A-/B+

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