The Darjeeling Limited

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) directed by the famous Wes Anderson known for his idiosyncratic characters, bright colors and symmetrical shot composition the film delivers on all counts. The film follows three brothers played by Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrian Brody on a train journey across India. The brothers have not spoke to one another in a year since the funeral of their father. Ever since they have all been lost in their own ways. The picture is a beautiful story of coming together and emotional healing.

As with any of Anderson’s work the film is highly stylized, it is like candy for your eyes. Each shot is like a photograph meticulously composed. There are also enumerable dolly and panning shots something else he is renown for. The coverage and variety Anderson achieves in such a claustrophobic and potentially boring setting as a train is remarkable. The cramped, busy, and bright feel of India is captured splendidly. Anderson and his writing partner Roman Coppola actually traveled across India for months while writing the film and it clearly comes through in the entire visual style of the film.

What makes any Wes Anderson film enjoyable is always the eclectic characters he creates. Their bizarre habits and upbringings never fail to create individuals viewers can empathize with. The three brothers in the film are all emotionally lost since the death of their father. They hold onto various items that used to belong to their father as a way of holding on. One significant group of items is the fathers Louis Vuitton luggage. The luggage serves as a symbol for the actual emotional baggage the three men are carrying around. They are damaged goods and cannot let go of the past. In the final scene of the film after the spiritual journey is complete, and the brothers have come together once again, they run to catch a train and must abandon bags in order to run fast enough and climb aboard. It is a symbolic moment a bit on the cheesy side, but it doesn’t come across as such.

There is another moment midway though the film in which Francis the oldest brother Played by Owen Wilson removes his bandages from a car accident for the first time. Underneath he is still cut up and bruised, and he then delivers the line “I guess I still have some healing to do.” The comment has a double meaning, Francis obviously still needs to do some physical healing, but more importantly he needs emotional healing. Anderson treks the fine line between corny and sweet perfectly and never steps over.

Anderson is an anomaly in today’s American film scene, he makes films that look “different” and are charmingly quirky. His films are often criticized for being overly stylized and gimmicky, but that is what makes him unique. He has yet to create a truly great work, but that isn’t to minimize what he has created. His movies make you smile, laugh, and cry in the best possible way.


Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Paul Schrader is best known for his work as a screenwriter with credits such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Rolling Thunder however he has made his fair share of forays into directing with great success. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters stands among his greatest achievements. Shot completely in Japan and acted mostly in Japanese it is an incredible accomplishment. The film follows the final hours of Yukio Mishima a prolific Japanese author, playwright, actor, and film director with strong political ideals. Intercut with the main narrative are flashbacks to his past and vignettes from four stories he wrote. The picture speaks multitudes on the nature of beauty, the struggle for self-acceptance, and what it means to take a stand for what you believe is right.

            The film is highly formalist not only being broken down into four chapters, “Beauty”, “Art”, “Action”, and “Harmony of Pen and Sword,” but further being separated into three different narratives within each chapter. One takes place in what is the present according to the diegesis of the film, the second is that of Mishima’s past, and the third is three stories which parallel portions of Mishima’s life. The form is Gordian at first, but it soon becomes clear and the transitions seamless. The segments are further differentiated stylistically. The narrative that takes place in Mishima’s present is steeped in realism as he preps for his great act of Seppuku. Each of the three vignettes based on Mishima’s writings are beautifully stylized, filled with rich colors and exquisite set and lighting design. Finally, there are the flashbacks to Mishima’s past. Shot in perfect black and white and seamlessly integrated, the transitions are never jarring. It is a brilliant piece of writing in which the form is used to further the understanding of the three-dimensional character a miss fit, a romantic, an extremist.

             Thematically Mishima is a bit convoluted. Although politics play a significant role, the film is not necessarily political. Yes, Mishima did plan a failed Coup d’état, and committed ritual suicide known as, Seppuku to make a statement, but that is simply one small facet of the movie. More so, the film is about the nature and preservation of beauty. Mishima was a deeply romantic man, willing to go to the utmost extreme to preserve beauty.  Body image is a struggle each of the characters struggle with. They all wish to be beautiful, and Mishima’s unique philosophy comes out. He views the human body as a work of art in and of itself with no need to be reproduced. However, the only way to preserve a man’s beauty is for him to commit suicide at the peak of his splendor. It is an extreme yet beautiful concept, and may be an inarguable truth.

            Mishima is a spectacular film packed with philosophical thought and jaw dropping visuals. When Schrader created the film he had yet another strike of brilliance yet for unknown reasons it has not garnered the same level of success or exposure as some of his other films. It is a much watch for any cinephile, and should be for members of the general public as well.