He's one of indie filmmaking's biggest names. If you ever find yourself watching a film you're not sure who directed... here's a checklist of signs to know you're watching one of Anderson's films.
5- Bill Murray Being Serious
If you're seeing this comic king in a movie that was made in the past ten years it's probably a Wes Anderson movie. Of the last fifteen film projects Murray has done four have been with Anderson. It was his role in "Rushmore" that made him an indie-film darling with such directors as Jim Jarmusch and Sofia Coppola. Murray has a strong commitment to Anderson, backing up the director by pulling out of his own pocket to help shoot a scene and also working for free in "The Royal Tenenbaums". Their film relationship has produced some interesting film experiences as well as a partnership of respect and comradeship.
4- Slow Motion Endings
In all but one of his films, Anderson has ended with the slow motion shot. We saw Dignan leaving for prison in "Bottle Rocket", Max's Dance with Miss Cross in "Rushmore", Royal Tenenbaums's funeral, and Steve Zissou walk the red carpet all in slow motion into the end credits. It's a signature style that Anderson has replicated in most of his films. Also notice the credits, first name in lower and uppercase but the last name is always uppercase. The only movie that broke the slow motion ending tradition? "The Darjeeling Limited," which began with a slow motion shot of Peter Whitman barely making the namesake train.
3- Mise en Scene
It's all about the details. If you're watching a movie and you feel slightly distorted by a wide angle shots and balanced symmetry of props, then you're in Anderson heaven. Each frame of an Anderson film is packed with props, and a balanced symmetry of the frame, causing slight distortion. This effect can feel almost dream-like, creating a vision that blurs reality with enhanced color palettes as well as elaborate production design. Several of his films use actual sets such as Steve Zissou's boat to contribute an elaborate environment to the story. When there is way too much stuff on the walls in 2.35: 1 aspect ratio you're probably watching a Wes Anderson production.
2- Deteriorating Family
Every Anderson film has a family struggling throughout the narrative. Bob's abuse from his brother Futureman, Mr. Blume's redheaded asshole children, The Tenenbaums, Steve Zissou connecting with his son, and the brothers on board the Darjeeling Limited. Anderson has often stated that J. D. Salinger has been an influence on his writing style balancing the comedy with tragedy at a moment's notice. But Anderson's reflection of families is used as a springboard to address issues such as grief, failure, and regret that have a universal appeal.
1- A Soundtrack You Never Could Have Created
If there's one thing for certain, it's that Anderson can create an amazing soundtrack. His use of sound over the image especially using rock musical compositions has been a trademark since his first film. From the British invasion rock songs of "Rushmore" to the Portuguese David Bowie covers of "Steve Zissou" Anderson's soundtracks have been stellar. With collaboration with Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh for original compositions, Anderson's films are ripe with stand out musical tracks. I bet the mix tapes he makes for his friends are the shit.