Musical Space: The Wes Anderson Montage

May 8, 2018

Wes Anderson movies are a definite thing. Take his set design: earnest, quirky, and obsessive. Every shot is a consummation of painstaking detail. The camera is straight-on, elements are arranged at meticulous right angles with uncanny symmetry, color palates are precise and constrained.

The same fastidious care is given to the choice of songs for his soundtracks. Anderson shows us how closely music can be integrated into the concept and design of a movie. Because stock wallpaper music would never work for films that have the strangest wallpaper you’ll ever see.

Every Wes Anderson film has a montage where his earnest, quirky, and obsessive characters work past their awkward nature to find love, accompanied by an old and forgotten guitar-based pop tune. For his latest, Isle of Dogs, he’s found a doozy. This song, “I Won’t Hurt You,” is some far-out 1967 vinyl from an obscure band with the most self-explanatory of names: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. I dig the human heart sound as a replacement for drums - it’s earnest, quirky, and obsessive - strangely perfect for the sequence of a boy wandering the countryside in search of a dog’s love.

A lot of his tropes could be criticized as affectation, but Anderson’s crate-digging elevates his storytelling as well as the music he discovers for us. Don’t ever change, Wes.

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Listening list:

The Creation, ‘Making Time’ (1966)


The first rock guitarist to use a violin bow.
In Rushmore, “Making Time” goes with a montage of the main character Max in all his extra-curricular school activities.

Françoise Hardy, ‘Le Temps De L’Amour’ Tous les garçons et les filles, (1962)


Moonrise Kingdom (2012) - the runaways dance to this song on the beach. An example of “Yé-yé,” a European style mixing different American sounds, similar to the style of the Beatles.

Love, ‘Alone Again Or’ (1967)


Bottle Rocket (1991) - a montage of Owen Wilson’s character falling in love with the maid Inez.

Rolling Stones “I Am Waiting” Aftermath (1966)


During a montage in “Rushmore” where the characters are seen sinking into loneliness

Nico, “These Days,” (Jackson Browne), Chelsea Girl, (1967)


During the iconic slo-mo of Gwyneth Paltrow walking toward Luke Wilson

Seu Jorge, “Life on Mars,” (David Bowie, 1971)


In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a pensive moment for the passengers of the Belafonte.

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