HBD Wes Anderson + His 5 Most Magical Musical Montages
There’s no director currently working, or even in the history of the cinema, quite like Wes Anderson. His films are about as quirky as quirk gets, thanks to his effortless combination of ravishing pastel palettes, extreme compositional symmetry, and wry, wry wit. But as the director turns 46 today, we decided to celebrate his birthday by honing in on one of the most diverse, emotional, and universal elements to his work: his soundtracks. Anderson has a knack for creating truly inspired musical pairings of his scenes, some with familiar tunes, others with some real oddball hidden gems. After much inner turmoil in picking our favorites, we whittled it down to our list of Wes Anderson’s 5 Most Magical Musical Montages. Listen at your leisure, but we recommend preparing your environment to be as symmetrical and whimsical as possible before you do.
5. French New Wave on the Beach—Moonrise Kingdom
As little Suzy Bishop and Khaki-scout extraordinaire Sam Shakusky make their arrival to the hidden beach hideaway that inspired the film’s title, they take a moment to celebrate their escape from the pressures of the adult world through a no-pants dance party. A no-pants dance party to the chicest French New Wave music imaginable, that is. ‘Le Temps de L’Amour’ by Francoise Hardy made for a strange break from the more folk-y staples of the film’s soundtrack, but the smolderingly sultry song somehow made for the perfect audio representation of the burgeoning pubescent love affair, giving equal cute and creepy vibes.
4. Elliott Smith Helps Richie Shave—The Royal Tenenbaums
As the emotional centerpiece to an already very emotional film, Richie’s attempted suicide was the climax no one really saw coming on the first viewing. But as he looked into the mirror and the meaningful chords of Elliott Smith singing ‘Needle in the Hay’ began to whisper its way out of the screen, you knew that something bad was bound to happen. The music’s natural crescendo into Richie being moved out of the bathroom and into the hospital gurney only seemed to cement the fact that it was a perfect fit: the saddest possible song for Anderson’s saddest moment in his saddest film.
3. Jarvis Cocker’s Banjo Breakdown—Fantastic Mr. Fox
It made for a strangely meta moment towards the end of Fantastic Mr. Fox as one of the humans, known only as Petey (voiced by Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker), began to sing a folk song on the events that had just transpired in the film. But when you throw in a cast of puppet animals dancing around, it seems like the only song one could play for a mid-film breakdown. It’s mostly nonsense lyrics, and the chief villain Farmer Bean even says as much when he stops the song. “You wrote a bad song Petey!” he yells. We can’t quite agree with him, even now we’re stuck with a “zippy-zee, zappy-z, yappy-yo, goggle-gum” in our heads.
2. The Many Loves of Margot—The Royal Tenenbaums
As the perennially gloomy Margot Tenenbaum, Gwyneth Paltrow stole every single scene she appeared in. The apex of our love for the fur-coat wearing chanteuse came in the form of the film’s most laugh-out-lout funny moment–a montage of every one of her numerous sexual escapades set to ‘Judy Is a Punk’ by the Ramones. Their frenetic guitar strumming and bleeding-heart punk vocals served the rapidly escalating parade of Margot’s lovers beautifully, where the yelps of Joey Ramone eventually match our own yelps of laughter. On their own, neither the scene nor the song seem particularly LOL worthy, but their juxtaposition is pure comic genius.
1. Team Zissou Meets the Jaguar Shark—The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Picking just one musical montage from The Life Aquatic was nearly an impossible task. From the plethora of expert David Bowie covers to the pirate attack scored by Iggy Pop, the film is a goldmine of glam rock. But the most affecting, powerful moment comes in the pivotal climax of Steve Zissou and comrades coming face to face with the long-hunted Jaguar Shark. As the moving strings and piano of Sigur Ros ballad ‘Staralfur’ ooze out from their watercraft, the ultimate in emotional catharsis is reached. Zissou meets his foe, all of the characters meet the colossal beauty and danger of nature, and we as the audience meet the starkly powerful emotional core hidden deep in the layers of whimsy and cynicism that pervade the film, all to the untold yearning of the Icelandic band that sings in a made up language.