For those of you who may’ve slept on the heated controversy over the origins of You, Me, and Dupree between Steely Dan and the brothers Wilson, prompted via a letter on their website, and played out in a public war of words before literally dozens of interested witnesses, here comes round two, in the form of an open letter from the Dan to Wes Anderson.
Highlights of Becker and Fagin’s modest proposal of smolderingly condescending advice/ proposed collaboration include:
“You began, spectacularly enough, with the excellent “Bottle Rocket”, a film we consider to be your finest work to date. No doubt others would agree that the striking originality of your premise and vision was most effective in this seminal work. Subsequent films – “Rushmore”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “The Life Aquatic” – have been good fun but somewhat disappointing – perhaps increasingly so. These follow-ups have all concerned themselves with the theme we like to call “the enervated family of origin”©, from which spring diverse subplots also largely concerned with the failure to fulfill early promise. Again, each film increasingly relies on eccentric visual detail, period wardrobe, idiosyncratic and overwrought set design, and music supervision that leans heavily on somewhat obscure 60’s “British Invasion” tracks a-jangle with twelve-string guitars, harpsichords and mandolins. The company of players, while excellent, retains pretty much the same tone and function from film to film. Indeed, you must be aware that your career as an auteur is mirrored in the lives of your beloved characters as they struggle in vain to duplicate early glories…”
“So the question, Mr. Anderson, remains: what is to be done? As we have done with previous clients, we have taken the liberty of creating two alternative strategies that we believe will insure success – in this case, success for you and your little company of players. Each of us – Donald and Walter – has composed a TITLE SONG which could serve as a powerful organizing element and a rallying cry for you and Owen and Jason and the others, lest you lose your way and fall into the same old traps…”
“The other change that we would have to make would concern Mark Mothersbaugh. Everyone in Hollywood knows that he is a first class professional musical supervisor. Obviously you and he have a lot of great history together and we can imagine there is a certain rapport both professional and personal. But we certainly can’t work with him, anymore than he would consent to work with us. Same thing for the mandolins and the twelve-string stuff and the harpsichord, they’re out. You yourself may be partial to those particular instruments. We’re not. Remember, we saw “Tom Jones” in its original theatrical release when we were still in high school, we had to listen to “Walk Away Renee” all through college and we fucking opened for Roger McGuinn in the seventies, so all that “jingle-jangle morning” shit is no big thrill for us, OK?”
Steely Dan: damn near the only thing making American movies tolerably amusing in Summer 2006.