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    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    The Darjeeling Limited

    With The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson has created a film that is his richest visually, simplest story wise and unfortunately his least affecting. Utilizing the inherent visual grandeur of India as the backdrop, Anderson's story of alienated brothers reconnecting in an effort to move past the loss of their father is at times both charming and whimsical, but seldom emotionally accessible. Truth be told, I reacted quite differently to the accompanying short film, which can be downloaded for free from itunes, which sets up the back-story of one of the brothers. In The Hotel Chevalier, Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman give off the quirky hurt vibes of Anderson at his best. After watching it I started to think that what I'd like to see from Anderson at some point is a film composed of these small vignettes, related or not by characters, possibly constructed to give a feel or tone of a place, be it a city or just a building, such as the hotel.

    Schwartzman, Wilson and Brody all give good offbeat performances, but none of them are given moments to excel, with the exception of a moment when they attempt to save three Indian boys from an overturned river crossing raft. On the other hand, Angelica Houston's short cameo is quite revealing and I believe it is completely because of her presence and performance that we come to understand the three brothers more fully, but ultimately too late. There is a superfluous cameo by Bill Murray that does nothing but make you want to see more of him and wonder why you don't. The two major native rolls played by Amara Karan and Waris Ahluwalia are in many ways the most enjoyable to watch.

    Don't mistake my issues with The Darjeeling Limited as a statement that I do not think the film worth seeing, because I do. Like The Life Aquatic, it is a film that I will need to revisit before I can truly form a solid opinion of it. His last two films, Darjeeling included, have felt like albums from a favorite band that have digressed somehow from what is expected and need more time to be accepted. There is a possibility I'll feel the same way upon subsequent viewings, but something tells me that I'll get more involved the second time around.

    There are few American filmmakers whose movies elicit an instant need in me to see them. In his own right, and in my personal estimation, Anderson shares company with the Cohen Brothers, Alexander Paine, Spike Jones, The Polish Brothers, and eventually Sophia Coppola and Miranda July (I'm sure there are more, these are mine) as the contemporary bearers of the American auteur in film.

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