Bathers at Asnieres and Fantastic Mr. Fox

7:00 AM


Georges Seurat, Bathers ar Asnieres, 1884






I came across an article about quirk culture on the Atlantic website the other day that claimed, “We’re drowning in quirk...an embrace of the odd against the blandly mainstream, that quickly becomes exhausting.” Of course Wes Anderson’s name is mentioned, among many other filmmakers and performers whose work I personally enjoy very much. Giving the writer his credit for providing critiques and challenges for higher aesthetic values (whatever he says that is), I find a familiar hostility, a reluctant appreciation/acceptance of those who uphold the subjectivity of their work and keep a healthy distance from the mainstream. A similar bitterness can be seen in the early days of impressionism, where author Richard Brettell argues it first recognizes the artists “as a character in the drama of representation.” We see a mannered style, an indie sensibility, art that's self-consciously elaborate; it’s no coincidence that those words apply well to works of artists like Georges Seurat and directors like Wes Anderson.

Unlike those old masters, who scarcely leave their traits and their stylistic narrative on their work, Seurat make it all personal and stylistic by employing pointillism, and Wes Anderson by unique camera movement, dialogs, motifs. In a word, they each love quirk.

When I see Bathers at Asnieres, the red hat of the boy on the right reminds me of Max Fisher in Rushmore, who also wears a red beret (a reference to The Cather in the Rye, according to Wes himself). In the painting, the working class kid seems to be calling to the bourgeoisie on the right side of the bank, whose life Seurat later depicted in his most famous A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. For me, it seems like Wes is calling to the commercially-oriented, mainstream-filmmakers and boring critics on the other side - "I’m right here, telling my story, in my way."

Towards the end of Fantastic Mr. Fox, a wolf appears up on a cliff. Mr. Fox waves to him, tears in his eyes. To me, it's a compromise one has to make in real life. After all, at least to a filmmaker, a great movie doesn't guarantee a great box office. However, you don’t see scenes like this in Spielberg’s films. Perhaps it’s just too personal, too quirky.  

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