Being a student film connoisseur is pretty taxing work, and each year, from September 12 – 19, the job shifts into overtime. The 33rd annual Atlantic Film Festival is in town, packing theatres throughout Halifax with a melange of the best and newest. Luckily for broke students campus-wide, the festival is hosting its special, and not to mention free, retrospective series at the Dalhousie Art Gallery. This year, the festival is showcasing the unparalleled vision of Wes Anderson.
Wes Anderson’s films defy expectation and definition. To outline their plot is to debase them.
“We decided that Wes Anderson’s films were a good entry point into film culture,” says Ron Macdonald, the Gallery’s curator and senior programmer for the Atlantic Film Festival. “He’s sort of French New Wave without all the hippiness. He has such a unified body of work; it’s really a genre into itself.”
Anderson’s seven films will be played in order of release – one per day from the 12th onwards, each at 5 pm – in order to create what Macdonald calls “a sense of where his films are going.”
From 1996’s Bottle Rocket to 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson has been transforming – and in the process, humanizing – tropes familiar to every viewer. The Cousteau-inspired The Life Aquatic is a perfect example of how Anderson can take a familiar focus and introduce an original, passionate liveliness. The effect is immediately recognizable.
“Everything Anderson does is celebratory. He does it with a kind heartedness, and a little bit of satire. He has such a command of popular culture.”
Past year’s events have ranged from wide themes such as Cult Movies and Film Noir, to individual filmmaker showcases. It’s an opportunity for die-hards to convert their friends, for celebrating and sharing the personal favorites, and for mingling and meeting with fellow fans. Macdonald recalls one particular event in which a group of students arrived dressed as their favorite Roman Polanski characters.
Like Polanski or Martin Scoresese, Anderson’s films inspire a particular devotion and attachment. His characters are immediately recognizable and peculiar in a very distinct way.
“He has such a remarkable body of work, and he’s only seven films in,” Macdonald notes. “He’s one of those filmmakers who’s still trying things out.”
Yet unlike his contemporaries, Anderson is impossible to define. He is a true auteur with a definitive humor and sense of composition.
“You really have to see one of his films to understand his films. It’s kind of like being in a secret club, like a secret handshake.”
And, for a week at Dal, that club is opening its doors. Seating is limited.