"There's Freedom In Bondage": 12 Things Learned At Cannes About 'Moonrise Kingdom' & Wes Anderson's Hyper-Controlled Style

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by Edward Davis
May 24, 2012 3:21 PM
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Aaron Hillis
Having received some of his best reviews in years, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" made a grand debut opening the Cannes Film Festival in style last week. By all accounts (including one very positive review of our own), Anderson's latest picture and first live-action film in five years, is a pleasant, charming and enchanting return to form that's both nostalgic for those early pre-teen years and emotional in its exploration of adolescent angst and early love. Starring newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward with an excellent supporting cast featuring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman, Playlist contributor Aaron Hillis got a chance to sit down with some of the cast at the press conference in Cannes. 

What ensued was an entertaining conversation with Anderson, co-writer Roman Coppola, the narrator in the film Bob Balaban, plus Norton, Schwartzman, Gilman and Hayward. Here's twelve interesting nuggets from the chat in France, and note, there are some mild spoilers.

1. Wes Anderson had to wait three months to hear back from the Cannes organizers after he submitted "Moonrise Kingdom." Something he didn't take as a good augur.
"I was with a group of French people when I found out, we'd been waiting like three months to hear anything," Anderson said. The filmmaker remarked that he had never submitted a film to Cannes before so he assumed he might hear the next day or so, but "We didn't hear anything for a long, long time so I felt that it was probably not a great sign." When Anderson finally heard the belated good news, he received a typically aloof and amusing response from his French pals. "I  told my friends, '[We got opening night].' All of them were saying [affects unimpressed French shrug], 'Better to be in competition.' But then later we found out it was in competition too."

2. Ed Norton, who revealed he's wanted to work with Anderson for several years, said the Cannes announcement was a long time coming. 
Anderson's made seven feature films so far, but believe it or not, "Moonrise Kingdom" was the first time the director had ever been invited to Cannes with a film playing the festival. "The first thing I thought was, 'Well it's about time,' " Norton said. "I think of Wes as a filmmaker who I would think would have had five or six films at Cannes by now. So it's good that they finally got with the program and acknowledged one of my generation's really great auteur filmmakers." There was a second selfish thought as well after he heard the good news. Norton remembered he'd also get a chance to "have those nice little marzipans again that they serve at the Cannes press conference."

3. While Anderson has spoken about how Francois Truffaut, Ken Loach and Alan Parker's films centered around children influenced "Moonrise Kingdom," he also revealed a broader influence: the filmmaking duo Powell and Pressburger.
"For many years some of the movies that have most inspired me especially in a visual way are the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger films," he said. "...so much of that work is about making these visual...quite artificial films and there's something very exciting about what they've made that's in front of the camera, and you know the 'Red Shoes' in particular is the subject matter too, but you know one of my favorites is 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp'...and also 'Black Narcissus'; [it's] about a woman in the Himalayas and they did it all on a soundstage."

Perhaps Anderson was describing how artifice -- like what many critics complain about in his films -- can be equally emotional and poignant when artfully constructed. "You really are transported to that place but you feel that someone has made these things and they're very emotional, moving films,"  the filmmaker said, also noted that their approach to music is very influential. "I also would say Powell and Pressberger, are a very good inspiration for music as well. 'The Red Shoes' is a movie where there's a very long sequence where the music was written first and the movie was made to the music, I mean it was a dance so it makes sense. In our movie this Benjamin Britten music that we use -- a lot of the movie was choreographed to it and we drew a lot of the scenes and semi-animated them in advance. So we sort of knew where the cuts were going to be based on the music."

4. "Moonrise Kingdom" became Wes Anderson's first period picture by accident rather than by any specific design.
"You know it became a period picture when I was writing Bob [Balaban's] part as the narrator who introduces us to the movie and I was really sort of spontaneously you know, he explained. "Bob's character talks primarily about the weather. But I wrote what year it was and I had not had the intention to set it in the past but I sort of followed that and as Roman [Coppola] and I worked on [the script] it became more and more part of it. To me, I started feeling like it was a Norman Rockwell kind of America and one that was about to change. It's the end of the summer and maybe it's also supposed to be the end of some kind of metaphorical summer."

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