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Wes Anderson’s Iconic Musical Moments

Since his 1996 feature-length Directorial debut, Wes Anderson and his films’ have had a unique, long-standing love affair with music. From Bottle Rocket to this year’s release The Grand Budapest Hotel, his very characters and story lines seem inextricably bound to their accompanying soundtrack. Like John Hughes and David Lynch before him, this link has almost cultivated its own genre, enabling the public to identify if something “sounds” like a Wes Anderson film. A relationship as such is a pretty rare thing but Anderson isn’t the only one with a hand in it, music supervisor Randall Poster has worked with him on every single film to create those iconic moments – the best of which we’re going to take you through now…

The Royal Tenenbaums and Elliott Smith


After finding out about his sister Margot’s many relationships, Richie (who is in love with her) shaves his head and beard before cutting his wrists to the sounds of Elliott Smith’s ‘Needle in The Hay’. For me at least, this is one of the most moving scenes in modern cinema. It was the first Wes Anderson film I’d watched and the first time I’d ever heard Elliott Smith. Listening to ‘Needle In The Hay’ is heartbreaking enough on its own but set to Richie’s suicide attempt, two years before Smith’s own suicide, it is the most powerful, sad pairing.

Rushmore and the Faces


Rushmore’s Max Fisher was always a bit of a rebel. To Poster and Anderson he embodied the rock n’ roll of suit and tie wearing British Invasion bands, and Jason Schwartzman in his first role only helped to further enhance this image. On the most basic level, Rushmore tells the tale of friendships built between generations, between pupils and teachers, of love rivalries, juvenile behaviour and a series of escalating pranks. Coming as it does then at the end of the film, the Faces ‘Ooh La La’ could not be a more perfect fit if it tried; its “I wish that I knew what I know now / When I was younger / I wish that I knew what I know now / When I was stronger” lyrics speaking to the films reconciliations more than the screenplay could on its own.

Life Aquatic and Sigur Rós


Sigur Rós’ 1999 classic ‘Starálfur’ soundtracks the moment we all – the audience, the actors and the fictional characters huddled in the submarine – see the illustrious Tiger Shark for the first time. It’s an incredible moment; the mystery and beauty of the narrative moment heightened and reflected by the song’s expansive swells.

The Darjeeling Limited and The Kinks


The opening chords of ‘The Strangers’ fall in the middle of The Darjeeling Limited, ringing out as the three brothers emerge from their tent in white robes and make their way through the Indian village to the funeral of the boy they didn’t manage to save. It was always going to be a powerful scene but the parallels between the characters circumstances and the songs lyrics add a direct, literal tone to proceedings – strangers in this small village, they put aside their egos as they are united by loss of their father and of the boy. Three Kinks songs were used in this film to almost mark and divide its chapters, and ‘The Strangers’ (like ‘This Time Tomorrow’ and ‘Powerman’) help convey what the brothers are thinking and feeling, probably better than they could.

Moonrise Kingdom and Francoise Hardy


A song Poster and Anderson had “put away” years before they used it, Francoise Hardy’s 1962 number ‘Le Temps De L’amour’ was brought out for the perfect moment in 2012′s Moonrise Kingdom. Running away with a suitcase, a record player and of course Sam (Jared Gilman), Suzy (Kara Hayward) puts the song on as the two dance and kiss on the beach. A loose translation of the first verse reads: “It is the time of love / The time of friends and adventure / As the time comes and goes/ One thinks of nothing in spite of one’s wounds / Because the time of love / It’s long and it’s short / It lasts forever, one remembers it.” They probably sum up the film’s core better than any review ever could.

Bottle Rocket and Love


After being introduced by a mutual friend, Poster and Anderson began working on their first soundtrack together. Appearing in Bottle Rocket as Anthony runs to find Inez (a maid who he falls for) Love’s “Alone Again Or” helps cements the pair’s relationship in the audience’s mind, just as it cemented the collaborative relationship between Poster and Anderson.

Fantastic Mr. Fox and Bobby Fuller


Having first listened to Bobby Fuller’s ‘Let Her Dance’ when making The Royal Tenenbaums, this was another track Poster and Anderson “put away for a rainy day.” Speaking to Rolling Stone about their decision to use it in Fantastic Mr. Fox Poster said: “With some of these songs, they’re such great pop songs, you hear it for the first time and somehow by the time the chorus comes around for the second time, you’re singing along with it. You feel like you’ve known it your whole life.” What better song then for a film whose story has been known and loved since it was first penned by Roald Dahl over 40 years ago.

The Grand Budapest Hotel and Alexandre Desplat


Rather than relying on existing songs, much of The Grand Budapest Hotel is scored by French composer Alexandre Desplat. The resulting balalaika style soundtrack possesses a fantastical middle-European gypsy folk aesthetic – populated by alpine horns, church organs and a lot of yodelling. And though it marks a significant change in Poster and Anderson’s approach, the soundtrack still manages to convey the films spirit; its focus on nostalgia, faded glory and the past reflected in the playful strings, timeless arrangements and wonderfully ordered 30-second character snippets.

Though details have yet to be confirmed, a collection of his movie soundtracks are being prepped for a Boxset release later this year. In terms of a musical education, there will probably be few better places to start.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is in cinemas now.

- Lauren Down



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