Fantastic Mr. Fox movie poster.
Cross-section technique used by Wes Anderson.
I went to see Fantastic Mr. Fox last week (and also may have sneaked into Pirate Radio after...
don't bother with this one) and thought it was, er, fantastic. Wes Anderson has successfully
created his own visual style that can be seen in both his animated and non films. Visually his
movies are appealing, with their combination of new and old so the audience never really knows
what time period they're watching. His characters seem to be caught in the highlight moments
of their lives, see Richie Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums. What stands out about
Anderson, to me, is his attention to detail in set design, dialogue and the idiosyncrasies given
to each character. He achieves these through awkward pauses, mannerisms and honest,
innocent, dead-pan expression. Yet, the humour still comes through.
A notable feature of Anderson's films is his cinematography style. Particularly the use of
straight on shots (first point perspective), which helps to give the impression of stage productions.
I often think of how Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was shot, using cross section views of the
movement and interiors of the Belafonte, Zissou's research vessel. Before this movie, I don't
remember seeing this technique used and it's visually stunning. After doing some research I
found that this was done as an homage to the 1972 film Tout va bien, where the same technique
was used, the film being set in a sausage factory. And this movie was a nod to the 1961 Jerry
Lewis movie The Ladies Man, reputedly the largest indoor set built by Paramount, the house
having sixty rooms. By panning through the spaces you get a sense of the architecture of set
design and see the structure of continuity in both dialogue and experience.
Fantastic Mr. Fox, of course, is an ideal situation to use such technique since the story takes
place above and below ground. In this movie the use of straight on shots act like elevations
drawings, which also become well composed film stills from a photographic perspective. In this
movie the camera work puts the animals in an ant farm-like perspective, where we're watching
from the other side of the glass.
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Krista Jahnke lives and works in Vancouver, BC and likes to ask