Like my colleague Melissa, I too recently purchased a house and have been spending my current vacation packing, mending, gardening, painting, and fist-shaking. I need a vacation from my vacation. Luckily, before leaving the library last Sunday I had the foresight to check out a few DVDs to watch during needed packing breaks. In anticipation of the new Wes Anderson movie coming out soon, I decided to re-watch his 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited. Then after reading the short essay accompanying the disc I decided to check out Mr. Anderson’s inspirations for the film: The River by Jean Renoir, Kanchanjangha by Satyajit Ray, and the documentaries Phantom India & Calcutta by Louis Malle.
The Darjeeling Limited was not one Anderson’s best reviewed films, but along with the short film Hotel Chevalier that precedes it (side note: it’s probably the only film in which I’ve ever liked Natalie Portman), it is full of charming sets and lovely music. Like his other films, delight can be found in the details, such as a carefully laminated trip itinerary, a can of pepper spray, a matching set of animal print suitcases, an escaped tiger, and Owen Wilson’s face covered in bandages for the entire film. It is definitely worth a viewing–or re-viewing, if you’re like me.
The River is also worth checking out, if for no other reason than the striking Technicolor visuals. Filmed entirely in India in the late 1940s and released in America in 1951, it was a highly unusual movie for its time. Not only was it shot entirely on location using a mostly nonprofessional cast and crew, but it also had a nontraditional plot for its time. The India in this film is not full of action & adventure, or tigers & elephants. Instead it tells an almost mystical tale of love, death, and rebirth, and meanders from here to there in much the same way as the river of its title. The acting from the nonprofessional actors is a little odd and stilted, but there are some lovely scenes in the film, my favorite being a fantasy sequence that tells the story of Krishna: