Saturday, September 15, 2012


you can instantly recognize a wes anderson film: the wide-angle, immaculately centered and balanced compositions, the retro early 70s production design, and the likable melancholy characters in slow motion at the last shot (not to mention a flawed father figure.) there was a hinting of this style in the script of bottle rocket, his first film, but it didn't really start until his next movie, rushmore. and by the time the royal tenenbaums came around a few years later, the wes anderson style was fully developed.

in the 1950s, french film scholars developed the "auteur theory," the notion that some directors' work will exhibit similar styles or theme throughout their entire oeuvre. for example, you can (usually) easily identify a spielberg film, an ingmar bergman film, or a tim burton film. the coen brother's seem to make two different kinds of films, the focused-yet-zany comedies and the precisely crafted dramas, although they branch from the same root. martin scorsese will undoubtedly have some remarkable moving camera moments along with characters who have trouble communicating their feelings in ways other than violence, while quentin tarantino is most famous for his over-the-top violence yet writes some of the best dialog around. and terence malick has become a genre all to himself: ponderous, philosophical narration over seemingly mundane yet transcendant cinematography.

this idea of characteristic style extends beyond directors. cinematography by robert richardson will have bounced light from concentrated hot spots, while janusz kaminski gives a beautiful polished look on everything he does. and, as arguably the most respected working dp today, roger deakins's work always looks like... roger deakins: soft, wrapping light that seems to obey his every command.

obviously, this sort of personal style extends to all creative types: writers and painters and designers, to name just a few (you know what an apple product looks like.) i realized this echoes a quote by ira glass that i posted here a few months ago: that, when you're starting out at something, you're not very good and you don't really have a style yet. and that can be really discouraging, because you know what quality is and you know you don't have it yet. but you just have to keep at it, because it will come.
on this same idea, ben folds added that you just have to do a ton of work and that you will start to discover your "voice." he says some other very interesting things about how it takes no effort to be yourself, but learning that can take a lot of work.

i've realized that relationships have a "style", too, be they friendships or more than friendships. and, like the movie directors whose style emerged over time, so do relationship styles. the way i interact with my sister is rather different from how i am my brother; i love hanging out with my high school best friend, but it's a very different dynamic from a friend i met six years ago. and that's part of what makes it so much fun: the nuances, the subtle allusions, the references and shorthand that only the two of you know, along with the unique reaction that happens with no one else.

the thing is, that takes time to cultivate; it doesn't happen over night. sometimes, like an artist with a strong natural gift, things start off strong. but everything takes time and practice to become great. and these awesome relationships are products of years of work, often including times of inactivity to one degree or another (which is true of artists, as well.) knowing the ins and outs of a person, how to work with them on their bad days and on their best days, and those underlying understandings have to grow naturally.
as elder maxwell once said, "don't pull up the daisies to see how the roots are doing."


Jaime said...

nice work. not where i thought the post was going in the beginning but i like. as i've said a million times before, you're a great writer.

The Former 786 said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the style of your boy, Danny Boyle. I'd also add Guy Richie, Ang Lee and Michael Bay to your list of obvious personal style.

Also, that Tim Burton video was hilarious!