As I entered the Palais this morning, Wes Anderson and his entourage were climbing the escalator in the Palais to embark on their first round of press and photo calls. For my money, Wes Anderson can be hit or miss. Sometimes his arch artificiality is winning (“The Fantastic Mr. Fox”), others, irritating (“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”).
Every frame of “Moonrise Kingdom” is arranged to perfection; the dialogue is flat; the 60s period references are selected with humor and affection. But at the heart of this remote island family comedy, which is packed with boy scouts and anxious, bumbling, disappointed well-meaning adults (Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, France McDormand, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel and Edward Norton), is a budding romance between two 12-year-old loners (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). Their powerful feelings ignite strong reaction as a storm rises around them and literally strikes them twice.
It’s fun watching Anderson manipulate this superb cast, who deliver delicious, precisely scripted comic moments surrounded by such archaic 1965 props as walkie-talkies, megaphones and person-to-person split screen phone calls. The screenplay was co-written by frequent Anderson collaborator Roman Coppola (“Darjeeling Limited”), who describes himself as a midwife helping Anderson to deliver and shape his ideas. Anderson did find a manual for coping with a troubled child on his refrigerator and knew he was the one; he also turned to children’s adventure fiction for inspiration. Arthur Ransome comes to mind; Anderson cites Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” series.
At the press conference, Anderson and the cast described participating in a delightful family summer camp adventure; Norton says that Anderson led them much the way his character led the boy scout troop. As a sign of the times, the movie is one of the few in the festival shot on film (super 16). Anderson admits that it may be his last, as Technicolor stops processing film and the world goes digital. “Maybe there’s a great app that makes it look like film,” he said, “but to my mind there is no substitute.”
Below, video interviews with the director for Slate. He answers readers questions, discusses working with a child cast, and his love of Francois Truffaut.