The Shorts and Commercials of Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson is known for eccentric film style and attention to detail. However, little do people know, Anderson uses his styles to further his artistic abilities in the world of commercials and short films.
His short films usually promote his full length feature films, however; not every feature has a corresponding short. Bottle Rocket, The Darjeeling Limited, and two Moonrise Kingdom shorts were created in preparation for their big releases.
Bottle Rocket (1994)
In 1992, the short film Bottle Rocket was shot by Anderson starring Luke and Owen Wilson, as well as Robert Musgrave. It was not until 1994 that the short was unearthed at the Sundance Film Festival a few years prior to the full length Bottle Rocket feature. Shot in black and white, it is clearly known that this is very early in his career. Well before what we know and love of him today. It has the same premise as the full length, which Anderson spawned from this project. Friends wanting to conduct a robbery, buying guns just for intimidation, and carrying out with the heist.
Hotel Chevalier (2007)
A whopping 13 years later we get to see another short flourish. This time, it is the precursor to The Darjeeling Limited. Hotel Chevalier is best watched prior to viewing The Darjeeling Limited as it sets up a backstory for one of the brothers, Jack Whitman. Set in France, Jack Whitman (Jason Schwartzman) and his previous girlfriend (Natalie Portman) meet up in a luxurious lemon colored hotel room. Jack sought out this hotel to get away from his prior lover, and now she comes back into his life for a brief moment. Trying to rekindle their relationship, Jack’s ex puts moves on him to relight the flame. Jack knows this is not what he wants and does not want to even be friends with his ex. He turns down the advancements suggesting that their relationship is in fact done.
Do You Like To Read (2012)
Opening up to Bob Balaban discussing Anderson’s next feature, Do You Like To Read is a little over 4 minutes, but packed with such wonder. Moonrise Kingdom’s leading lady is Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) who is a book loving teenager who wants to leave home. We see how she is in Moonrise Kingdom, but Do You Like To Read gives us more of an in depth look at who Suzy Is. It covers 6 books that Suzy brings on her journey running away. She narrates a bit of each book while animated scenes play to her dictation. The animations are beautiful, as they reflect what would be on that pages if these books were, in fact, real.
Cousin Ben Troop Screening (2012)
Two shorts were created to promote Moonrise Kingdom. An Anderson regular, Jason Schwartzman (my favorite), stars as Cousin Ben, a play by the rules type of troop leader. He throws a screening of Moonrise Kingdom for the young troops and wants everything to be perfect for screen time. No candy, no throwing popcorn, and no talking are just a few things Cousin Ben wants followed. With being just over 2 minutes, this short is enough to give you a further taste of what Moonrise Kingdom would have to offer stylistically and dialogue wise.
As I write about these short films, a new short was recently released. Isle of Dogs comes out next week and in preparation for the release of this highly anticipated stop motion film, we get a sneak peak into the world of what is to come.
Isle of Dogs: Cast Interviews (2018)
With the release of Isle of Dogs, Anderson delivered once again. This short film introduces most of the cast, and by cast I mean the dogs. As each dog is shown on screen speaking about who they are, the name of the actor/actress who they are voiced by pops up. It makes one laugh once they see the name then look at the dog. Why? Well, each dog seems to resemble the entertainer voicing them. I personally found myself saying “If Jeff Goldblum was a dog, he would look like that.”
Clearly, Anderson’s technique only advanced as time went on in his short films. Many directors dabble in other forms of entertainment aside from film. Music videos seem to be heavily populated by film directors as well as commercials. Wes Anderson has not yet travelled into the world of music videos, but his lineup of commercials he has done is extensive.
American Express: My Life My Card (2004)
The first time Wes Anderson took a stab at commercials was in 2004 for American Express. Not only did he direct the ad, but he also starred in. Simple, easy, to the point, this commercial shows the difficulty in filming and how you need to finance a film that has a budget of more than pocket change.
SoftBank Japanese Cell Phones (2008)
30 seconds is all you need in this short commercial for a cell phone company. What is the draw to this commercial? It’s Brad Pitt. He is on the phone at a fruit stand, helping push a car, and taking pictures of a group at a picnic. Extending the Anderson trademark of moving the camera horizontally at a quick pace, the SoftBank commercial is done in one take.
Stella Artois: Apartomatic (2010)
Simmering in a 1960s aesthetic, this Stella Artois commercial emulates precision. Two individuals retire to an apartment that is precise and clean. The man steps out to clean up while the woman sits idling on the sofa next to a gadget. Buttons are pressed, the apartment goes berserk showing secret compartments and a mobile sofa, and a Stella is perfectly poured.
Sony Xperia: Made of Imagination (2012)
One of the cutest commercials in Anderson’s lineup is about a smartphone. Jake Ryan, an imaginative 8 year old, creates this story of how a smartphone actually works. Not on the outside, but on the inside. His mind makes a wild assumption about what a phone entails and how little parts get jobs, while being bossed around by bigger phone parts. It is refreshing to see imagination of a child and how it can go in many different places,
Prada: Candy (2013)
Two versions of this commercial are floating around the internet. The shorter version is fine, but the extended version obviously pushes the story along a bit more. Lea Seydoux stars as Candy, a woman who desperately cannot choose between two best friends who fall in love with her. Their infatuation continues until a week and then a month pass. Candy still does not know who to choose so, why not both? This French filmed commercial illustrates how inescapable Lea Seydoux is, possibly just like the perfume.
Prada: Castello Cavalcanti (2013)
The primary colors shine throughout this commercial financed by Prada. Jason Schwartzman is back as a last place race car driver, Jed Cavalcanti, who is trying to get through a race when car malfunctions occur make him crash. He ends up in a little town square where residents gather at a cafe nearby. Cavalcanti is bothered by his misfortune and demands the leave on the next bus. His mind changes once he realizes he is in his homeland surrounded by ancestors. Plans change and Cavalcanti take a seat to enjoy his family heritage.
H&M: Come Together (2016)
The most heartwarming of all the commercials, almost reminiscent tail end of The Darjeeling Limited but with a feel of The Grand Budapest Hotel, this H&M commercial takes place on a train. While aboard the H&M express, The Little Drummer boy plays in the background while a camera pans to show different rooms on the train and focuses on different clothing in each. It is the holiday season and the passengers are stuck on the train due to mechanical and weather issues. Conductor, Adrien Brody, tells passengers there is a lunch in 20 minutes. Fast forward and the lunch is a big Christmas celebration to make a sad youngster on the train happy. Come Together is the title of the commercial and it could not be more perfect for the subject matter.
Five short films and seven commercials is not bad for a man who we know is intricate on how his films look. This could be why it takes awhile for the world to see a new piece of work from the man. Wes Anderson’s style is, dare I say, quirky. There is no way around that word. However, his quirky style is comforting. There are not many directors out there who quite match what Wes Anderson has done lately. Isle of Dogs looks to be delicately precise and will continue to push the buttons of his artistry. I cannot wait to see his work continue.