Eight thousand people cheered the premiere of Wes Anderson's new film, Moonrise Kingdom this week at Cannes, appreciating the imaginative journey into the world of a boy and girl who escape their alienating home environments to discover love on an island. The film is candy for the eyes: each shot bright with yellow, pink and orange, the costumes and props so intensely colorful, the film seems animated. The boy, played by the loveable Jared Gilman in huge glasses, wears a preposterous bushy beaver hat as he convinces the girl to traipse through fields and run away from home with him. The girl pulls out the "equipment' she has brought for their great adventure: her treasured stolen library books ("I'll let you read them") and a stereo player for her music.
Clearly Wes Anderson is applauding the role of the arts, for young and old minds alike. A favorite scene: the girl setting down her stereo player on the beach, and then dancing for the boy.
The other delight in the movie is the music: a hypnotic cheerful score including Alexandre Desplat, Leonard Bernstein and Benjamin Britten.
Might this film be a homage to creativity, and in particular to music?
Wes Anderson -- dressed stylishly in beige satin jacket and blue shirt -- answered:
"I have always loved movies that inspire in a visual way: for example the Pressburger-Powell films. I always thought these films are about making films. They are quite artificial: The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus. You are really transported to that place and you feel that someone has made these things. They are emotionally moving films, beautiful. Powell and Pressburger are also an inspiration for music: the music is created first, then the film."
He continued: "We choreographed our movie to Benjamin Britten's music. We drew a lot of the scenes and semi-animated them. The cuts in the movie were based on the music."
Jason Schwartzman, an actor in Moonrise Kingdom, joined in. "Wes spends a lot of time constructing his movies. They are very intricate and delicate, and balanced. He is a conductor and a composer, and as an actor/musician, I feel it is very important to help the composer and conductor keep the music in balance."
The conversation with the actors revealed that per his reputation, Wes carefully orchestrates every detail of his film.
"He made us write letters to each other, to create our chemistry," confided thirteen year old winsome Kara Hayward, who plays the misfit girl. (She also admitted that she personally, at age 13, had yet to experience such a strong love.)
"To help me get the idea of what it means to be resourceful, Wes asked me to watch Escape from Alcatraz," noted Jared Gilman, the boy.
They were also given CDs of Britten's music to get into character.
"He is a kindly dictator," opined Bob Balaban, the narrator of the movie. "The power of the movie is that within this formality, there is an emotional life coursing through it. The structure of being so firm and organized allows for this powerful emotion."
"Yes, sometimes there is freedom in bondage," quipped Edward Norton.
Even the dog obeyed Wes Anderson's directorial cues. For the scene in which the dog is killed (yes, a plot spoiler), Wes originally used a dummy of a dog, even though there "is nothing worse than a fake dead animal." But after the plush terrier proved disappointing, the actual dog was brought back to the set. "The trainer told the dog to lie dead," Wes confided with a grin. "And it did. It lay immobilized, and seemed to hold his breath."
It is a well-crafted movie, a pleasurable ride, a journey that even includes a bow and arrow fight in the forest.
But what about the meaning of the film: the loneliness, alienation, etc.?
Wes Anderson commented:
"The loneliness and the trying-to-fit-in is the center of the film. Everyone feels that at one time or another; it is a very powerful feeling, universal."
Jared brightly quipped that he got to keep the oar, signed by all the crew. Not so alienated as all that.
The movie will be released in New York on May 25th.
All photos by Karin Badt.