The critic, writer and filmmaker Matt Zoller Seitz first met director Wes Anderson when he was still shopping around the short film that would birth his first feature, 1996’s Bottle Rocket.
Seitz has been writing and analyzing his work since, even making a series of short videos on his films, The Substance of Style.
With The Wes Anderson Collection, Seitz puts his thoughts in a book, via a giant, lavish tome that also includes stills from Anderson’s films, never-seen photos and a revealing and book-long interview with the director.
When did you decide this should be an interview book?
I like interviewing people. I like writing profiles of people. And the fact that I’ve known this guy for so long made an interview component more tempting. It took awhile to convince him. He’s very out front as an auteur and an impresario. But that’s not Wes. That’s “Wes.” The actual Wes is not this flamboyant, confident, cool Mr. Fox-type figure. He’s just a guy. I’m not close to him, really, but I did know him when he was just a guy. When I talk to him I can still see just the guy. The guy is a Texas kid who is a little uncomfortable with being the centre of attention for too long and having people pay him compliments. Obviously he’s an artist, so he likes being paid attention to and he likes acclaim. But I think he just wants the work to be seen and absorbed.
One of the curious trends in this book is how you often rattle off theories and analyses of his films, and at the end he just goes, “Hmm.”
It’s like he’s taking it in. There are parts where he finds them valid, but doesn’t want to go so far as to validate them.
He’s very modest.
If you read between the lines of this book, you can get a pretty clear picture of the real Wes. He’s not an Oliver Stone or Quentin Tarantino, where when you read an interview with them you feel they’re right there and completely transparent. I don’t know if that’s accurate — those might be performances as well. But with Wes he doesn’t even give you that.
Anderson has many detractors. What do you think about them?
I feel like whatever you feel about Wes is whatever you feel about Wes. There’s a point in the book where I floated one of my cockamamie theories, and I asked if he thought that was a valid interpretation. He said yes, it’s a valid interpretation because it’s your interpretation. You could see that as a noncommittal answer, or you could see it as a very sensible answer. I don’t think you could say something against or for Wes Anderson that I think is unfair.
Well, some people do hold too much onto the charge of anal-retentiveness.
I feel like Wes is making movies about emotionally arrested or childlike people, and they are about the condition of being anal-retentive or controlling or fussy. But I don’t think the movies are immature or that the movies are fussy. I think he’s working through something by making these movies. And he never quite gets there.