Moonrise Kingdom

June 24, 2012 1 Comment

This Sunday the Reel Deal hosted it’s first 2012 Reel Deal Goes to the Movies:  Moonrise Kingdom.  The Royal Oak Main Theatre kindly supplied us with microphones and a space in the theatre after the 4pm screening of Wes Anderson’s wonderful film.  The discussion that followed the film (I was fortunate to be the discussant) began with a cursory summary of those qualities that define a “Wes Anderson” film:  deadpan acting style from an ensemble cast contrasting with an over the top mise en scene filled obsessively with detail, cinematography that consistently uses wide angle shots, static camera work that lingers, slow motion sequences, montage set to music and the ever present “awkward couple” two person shot that consistently focuses upon a nostalgic longing for childhood, the idealized past and family happiness.  The discussion that followed was a wonderful blend of lovers and haters of Wes Anderson.  Questions about the balance between self aware technique (especially his quirky style) and the ability to “hook” an audience emotionally were posed.  Some were moved and deeply affected by the music used to propel the story; others were distanced and not impressed.  What was the effect of Anderson’s use of pervasive “deadpan” style?  Why are some curious and others turned off?   What does multiple viewings of such a complex film achieve?  Is Anderson’s style too “precious”?

The Reel Deal Goes to the Movies was a success and clearly there is interest in a regularly meeting opportunity to spend time reflecting upon interesting films with interesting people…..look for an announcement to establish a monthly meeting……see you at the movies!  Jolyn Wagner

Reel Deal Goes to the Movies
One Comment to “Moonrise Kingdom”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    In a recent interview Wes Anderson compared film making style to handwriting style. A person often has the same handwriting style no matter what he is writing about, and a filmmaker will often have the same movie making style regardless of the subject matter of his films. Anderson’s style is marked by portrayals of the bizarre and absurd and the use of deadpan. Some define the bizarre as being outrageously and whimsically strange and the absurd as what is utterly opposed to truth and reason. It is possible for something to be common and absurd (perhaps envy is like that or religion or all the time we spend making money for its own sake),and therefore not bizarre, And the reverse is true: the way Lady Gaga presents herself is often bizarre, but not absurd. It is not “utterly opposed to truth or reason.” Deadpanning has to do with being expressionless in your face or speech and doing it with some intention, say, to be humorous, too frighten, or to call attention to suppressed emotion.

    There are many instances of the bizarre, the absurd and deadpanning in Moonrise Kingdom. It’s bizarre that Suzy takes her cat and record player with her on her hike and camping trip, that she wears a cute little dress and her Sunday saddle oxfords, that she wears so much eye make-up at twelve years old but forgets her comb, and that she carries a yellow hard-sided suitcase full of books. It’s bizarre that Sam wears a coon skin cap, that he takes a tent and a little table that he sets with cloth napkins and plates, on which he serves hotdogs. It’s bizarre that Suzy’s mom uses a bullhorn to talk to her children and husband. It’s absurd that Sam survives getting struck by lightning and that there is a mock marriage ceremony between Sam and Suzy presided over by one of the adult khaki scouts, in all seriousness. It’s absurd that the motorcycle of one of the scouts gets hung up in a tree and the scout is not injured by it (he is injured by Suzy’s sticking a pair of left-handed scissors in his ribs!). Is it bizarre or absurd that there is a tree house atop a tree all of whose lower branches are missing?

    Bill Murray is the master of deadpan, and he deadpans throughout the film. So do Sam and Suzy when they have their quasi-sexual encounter. So does Social Services, the woman without a proper name, who wants to take Sam away and put him in an orphanage.

    And there are lots of other instances that I have not mentioned of deadpan, the bizarre, and the absurd. All of these things contribute to the quirkiness of the film.

    But what is their point? I’ve noted that deadpanning can be used with the intention to make us laugh, and much of the deadpanning in the film does just that. Does it sometimes do more? I think it does. Bill Murray deadpans in his pillow talk with his wife, but it’s not that funny. He expresses weariness of life. When Sam and Suzy deadpan their romantic encounter, they express the awkwardness they feel in dealing with their sexual arousal. And Social Services’ deadpanning displays a defense mechanism that has been cultivated in order to make hard decisions about children’s lives, many of which will not be best for the children.

    What, in general, is Anderson’s purpose in portraying the bizarre and the absurd, and in using deadpanning? I think it is to reveal what’s concealed, but in a soft rather than a harsh light. To reveal what? Well, that varies. The handwriting is the same, but the subject matter varies.

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