1.03.2008

The Darjeeling Limited




Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody (upside down) in The Darjeeling Limited (dir. Wes Anderson, 2007).

It's great until about halfway through: the three leads play off each other wittily, and the constraint of confining the action to the train (with a few short station stops) provides a formally pleasing compactness. Then they get kicked off and everything goes slack. Anderson feels compelled to adhere to his formula of injecting a poignant dollop of tragedy, which snuffs out the comic spark that glimmers so consistently up to that moment. From then on, the narrative flops around like a pregnant elephant. During the last half hour, the film could have ended at any of about twenty moments and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference.

5 comments:

apants said...

The luggage though, the luggage is really something.

Daniel said...

That funeral scene was gorgeous. I truly don't understand how you could have left it unaffected. What you say about the last half-hour is pretty dead-on, though. The whole thing with the mother was a particular low point.

Ed Hardy, Jr. said...

It all does sort of feel like Wes and the boys went out there expecting to find some sort of transcendence and then had to fake it when there was nothing there, doesn't it?

And:

Is it possible that the film could be critiquing the ugly American without even realizing it? As somebody said in that Film Comment essay reprinted in the Criterion ROYAL TENENBAUMS linernotes, Wes has always included discussions of class in his films, usually represented by the Owen Wilson character. But in DARJEELING, Owen is the richest and--in a way--most artificial of the brothers and the personification of the lower class is spread out among the whole of India, which the boys trample with their faked reverence. As I watched it, the filmmakers felt complicit with the characters, and I was a bit nauseated. But everything about this film feels different in retrospect.

K. Silem Mohammad said...

Ed, I think your reevaluation was correct: Anderson is going for a satiric critique of the American penchant for shallow, exoticized "spirituality." But I still share your initial reaction: the filmmakers are complicit in the sense that the satire is watered down by excessive lyrical gentleness and trivialization. Isn't it cute, our boys out there acting like typical western fools? Aren't they endearing as they continue our heritage of exploitation and arrogance?

kyle said...

"Isn't it cute, our boys out there acting like typical western fools? Aren't they endearing as they continue our heritage of exploitation and arrogance?"

but that's just it, isn't it? yes. yes they are. damn them.