Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Opinions: Wes Anderson/PRIMARY COLOURS.

From a Designer's point of view, another great thing about Wes, and his films (as if there could be anything more!) is his selective use of colour- a clever and seemingly conistent pattern used throughout his films which add to this aeuteur-like qualities.

The consistent colours in question are primary: red, yellow, and blue. Particularly found in the nautical film 'The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou' in which the constume, and a great deal of the set, was inspired by reknowned oceanographer, Jacques Costeau (of whom Anderson has quoted as a personal inspiration/hero).

The screenshots below show the typeface colours, and elements/screenshots of the films in which this colour favouritism is evident.


A combination of stills from the short (originally shot in black and white- obviously restricts the colours!) and the feature-length film made two years later in 1996. Early days for Wes, and still developing a cinematic style- yet his colour preferences are still evident.

First shot of the film- the title, and the first time we become familiar with Wes' colour palette of choice, and his love for Futura (but that's a different story for a different blog post...)

Front cover for the short film soundtrack- the red works well against the monochrome, and really pops out- very edgy and cool, already, Wes is making his stamp on both the cinematic, and the design world.

The Citerion DVD cover release- released several years after the initial design...a lot more "Wes- like", evidencing the use of Futura typeface and simplistic illustrative design. 

The original cover design- looks a little cheap, and not consistent with the standard Wes- like design. However, red is still used throughout the type- a clear indication that the film is part of his directing history.

A great shot- blends from both the shot and the feature length film- here, we can see Wes' eye-popping choice of red and yellow, emerging here from a very subtle choice to become a true statement of his cinematic aesthetic for years to come.


In Wes' second film, his choice of colour, though still subtle, is certainly more evidenced, particularly on the front cover for the DVD of 'Rushmore'. 

Again, only subtle references to the primary colours are used and highlighted throughout the film- such as this scene, where the uniform and school utensils are dictated by the bright, primary colour choices- and particularly stand out in the "ultra-surreal" way both Owen Wilson and Anderson (writers) were quoted to aspiring to create.

Perhaps the most notable use of primary colour is in the lead character, Max Fischer's beret, a key and now iconic costume choice which defines his style throughout the film.


Again, in 'The Royal Tenenbaums', though subtle- the colour palette is still clear- particularly in the costume choice for the character of Chaz and his two sons, Azi and Uri in their red Adidas tracksuits. Also, the relationship with Futura is now in full swing- and being used boldly with the red colouring.

Note the bright, child-like colouring in this scene- evidence a lot in the film, particularly in the childhood bedrooms- also in Richie's "playroom", where he hangs his childhood artworks of adopted sister, and love, Margot.

In this rather haunting scene involving Richie's attempted suicide, Anderson uses a blue filter on the lens to create this moody and rather chilling aesthetic, which, along with the music and Luke Wilson's astonishing acting talents (this role certainly his best to date) creating a truly memorable piece of cinema.


Anderson's experimentation with colour was in full swing in his third feature-length film 'The Life Aqautic with Steve Zissou'- as aforementioned, the costume of Steve Zissou himself and his "Team Zissou" was inspired by documentary-maker and oceanographer, Jacques Costeau. The combination of primary colours created a really surreal and child-like experience, each shot and still almost worthy of being a painting. Such a memorable film, I am too "cult-y" for my own good.

In this shot, and in promotional/DVD typefaces- Anderson uses the outline form of Futura Bold, creating a unique and playful yellow title which fits perfectly with the visual communication of the sea and nautical-scenes- blue for the sea, yellow for the sand.

"Team Zissou". These costumes are now iconic. I will never look at a red beanie hat/turban in the same way again.

One of the best scenes- Bill Murray is nothing short of Godly.

Team Zissou trainers- as endoursed by Adidas. I desperately want a pair of these. They now sell for hundreds. 
I'm SUCH a nerdy nerd.


'Hotel Chevalier' is the second short by Wes Anderson, and, truly stunning (largely thanks to the beautiful Parisian location, but also thanks to the brilliant lead actors- Schwartzman and Portman). The short is an "introduction" to his next feature-length film, 'The Darjeeling Limited', telling of the disfunctional relationship between one of the stories brothers and his past lover- a story which runs through 'Darjeeling'. Here, note his use of yellow Futura Bold for the title typeface- a style that would become rather consistent through Wes' cinematic future...

Once again- small details run through the film in terms of colour- the bathrobe, the duvet cover, the blue lighting from the sky- small details which help the film to become vibrant, beautiful and, along with it's fantastic acting, become as highly reknowned as it now is.


'The Darjeeling Limited' tells the story of the disfunctional Whitman brothers- their individual stories, relationship with one another, their astranged mother and deceased father. Once again, the yellow typeface is used- this time (like 'The Life Aquatic') in a unique, East-inspired style. This is perhaps my favourite film title style- unique whilst still being consistent with the history of Anderson's films.

One of the things I LOVE about Wes Anderson's work- and this film in particular, is his attention to detail- note the bathrobe worn...the same as was worn by Natalie Portman's character in 'Hotel Chevalier...brilliant.

The red of the carriage is one of the most distinctive features in the otherwise highly-coloured and decorative film.


The last, and perhaps most adventerous of Wes' films to date, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' is both Anderson's first film adaption (of course, from Roald Dahl's children's classic) and his first stop-motion animation. A truly creative and fun film- it would always be a challenge to adapt a classic, but no-one, in my opinion, could have done it better.
See that yellow Futura THAT'S an auteur. Still keeping it fresh with the curved style, Wes is a master.

Again- note backdrops and lighting methods used- blue and yellow, keeping the imagery very fantastical and child-like.


-Official photos yet to be exciting!-

*Obviously, for a huge colour fan/nerd such as I, this is pretty much reason #13769 why Wes Anderson's films are amazing. If I continue to extend my research and design development into the full 'What is Good?' project, I will certainly highlight this as an aesthetic and cinematic plus in my three- minute presentation.

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