In an anonymous street of 6e arrondissement of Paris, a building stands out, all of symmetrical bricks, flowery ornamentation, abundant vegetation. It was there, not far from his home, that Wes Anderson, 54, edited his eleventh feature film, Asteroid City, and that he received us at the beginning of June. Like a metonymy of Texan art, damn frictional.
“Asteroid City” takes place in September 1955, in a desert and motorized America. It is also the month during which James Dean died in a car accident in the middle of the desert.
Ah good ? Gosh… It takes me back to 1989, Texas. I was 19, my friend Owen Wilson was 20. Why did this actor matter to us as much as to my mother, thirty-five years earlier? Elia Kazan’s films, the actors he had trained at the Actors Studio, like James Dean or Marlon Brando, were the ones that spoke to us the most. We idolized this so direct way of making cinema, this fatality that emanated from them. Last night, I was rehearsing with the main actor of my next film, Benicio Del Toro. We kept talking about Godfather (1972), from Last Tango in Paris (1972)… There’s something sad about the way Brando didn’t treat his own work and that of others with respect, even though he could get very involved. Do you know that Matt Dillon has just shot a film in Paris where he plays the role of Brando, precisely?
In “Asteroid City”, his character is more reminiscent of James Dean.
It’s a voluntary wink. Our film is divided between the world of New York theater, in black and white, and the Hollywood desert, in color and panoramic – a format popularized by The Fury of Living (1955). Through James Dean, who spoke and moved differently from the other actors, Nicholas Ray expressed a new feeling: the dreamy uncertainty of adolescence, this infinity of possibilities coexisting with a sense of disaster, tragic and stylized. Elia Kazan had revealed Dean shortly before, in East of Eden (1955). The Film Foundation created by Martin Scorsese, of which I am a member, recently restored this film: during the screening, I remembered each line. In most films of this era, there is a friction between an actor who brings something new, and the rest of the cast, more traditional. Think of Johnny Guitar (1954), for example. The studios were then stuck in a very theatrical approach; paradoxically, their renewal will be ensured by artists from the New York theater!
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Wes Anderson, director of “Asteroid City”: “Why do James Dean and Marlon Brando matter to us so much? »