Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism Matt Zoller Seitz came to the Isla Vista Theater on Friday, Feb. 21, to present a free multi-media presentation. The event included a section from his new book, “The Wes Anderson Collection,” and a Q&A session with fellow film fanatics. KCSB-FM 91.9 and Magic Lantern Films, two student-run media organizations, paired up with Granada Books to bring the film and television critic, author, and filmmaker to the University of California, Santa Barbara. Seitz is the editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com and is a TV critic for New York Magazine and Vulture.com–but on top of all these titles, he is a Wes Anderson devotee.
Wes Anderson is a filmmaker who is known for his idiosyncratic directorial style that makes him a true auteur. Anderson did not begin with a big blockbuster hit, but rather with his short film “Bottle Rocket,” which was shown at the USA Film Festival in 1994. Seitz explained that with festivals, “you take your chances and it’s either really good or really bad.” Fortunately for Seitz, he enjoyed watching “Bottle Rocket” and was stunned when he discovered Anderson was about his age. Seitz believed that Anderson was older because his style was unique and for someone his age, “he knew what he wanted.”
Many of Anderson films are artfully crafted. The films–“Bottle Rocket,” “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” “The Darjeeling Limited,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Moonrise Kingdom”–all have the same characteristics that make Anderson an influential American filmmaker. The films contain a tension of chaos and control, tension between father figures, references to literature, and sly humor.
The lecture focused primarily on Anderson’s third feature film, “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Seitz screened the prologue and then dissected and analyzed the film. He spoke about the importance of stories and storytelling, theatricality, geography, and text. After listening to Seitz discuss the cinematography and editing techniques utilized by Anderson, it is no wonder he is a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in criticism, for his ability to detect Anderson’s nuances and subtle references were captivating.
Seitz was so enthralled by Anderson’s work that in 2007, he began making video essays about the writer and director’s visual artistry and unique tone. In total, Seitz created five videos called “The Substance of Style” which, according to Seitz, capture the “movies that painted Anderson’s imagination.”
Seitz discussed some of Anderson’s major influences, ranging from Bill Melendez (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”), Orson Welles (“Citizen Kane”), and François Truffaut (“The 400 Blows”). The videos contain key influences on Anderson’s style. During the presentation, Seitz explained that “all artist steal, but Wes is very subtle about it.”
Anderson’s films have a distinctive style, which some critics may deem superfluous. As a devoted fan, Seitz chose to “create something that could make a case of Wes as an artist.” He began working on “The Wes Anderson Collection” in 2009, and it took him about three years to put it all together. The book contains seven sections in which Seitz analyzes each of Anderson’s seven feature length films. The book itself, filled with playful illustrations, is a representation of Anderson’s quirky style.
After the presentation, Seitz signed books for fellow Anderson fans. He ended by saying he cannot stop obsessing with Anderson and his work because, “Complexity and thoroughness keep me re-watching for new things.”