Sunday, 24 January 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson 2009)

All posts may contain spoilers

Context: Saw this at a kids showing on a Saturday morning (quid each), with the whole family hoping that Mr Fox crosses the demographics correctly, entertaining my three year old son and four year old nephew as well as me, an established fan of Wes Anderson’s work and my wife who neither loves nor loathes his other films.

The kids: Well by the end of the film the kids were still sat there and hadn’t become bored or restless. My son particularly liked Mr Fox’s whistle clicky thing and attempted to replicate it at every instance. The animation was easily entertaining enough to hold their attention and have them laughing along, commenting and shouting out what was happening on nunerous occasions.

As for me, I was more than happy with the pacing of the film, the characters within and the overall message. Controversial as this may be, I didn’t think too much to Life Aquatic and I still haven’t seen Darjeeling, so after hearing bad things about this one from most commentators at the time of its release, I was apprehensive. The dialogue between characters had Anderson’s stamp all over it and gave all the characters the depth that they required.

I liked the overall theme of the film; the animal characters seemingly representing independent retailers: mere mortals up against the conglomerates realised in this film through the form of the big farmers. All evil in their own right but led by one particular cold blooded, cider brewing machine-farmer. This all sounds very cliché at the minute, which is all fine but things that follow the structure too definitively often bore me a little too much and end up too average. I think this film really drifted from this when approaching its conclusion. Mr Fox wanted out of the life he was in and wanted bigger things; the usual message here would be for this to fail and him to go "oh yeah, everything was fine before and I should go back to that with my tail between my legs". Well this film does neither this nor have his new vision a success, instead a new outcome is reached. The animals live in a new environment: a sewer that can easily be seen to represent a modern urban setting. What this means to me is that individuals/society can rise from a traditional and more recognisably natural level, whilst not succumbing to 'the man'. They can live in a new setting, not growing the way that people envisage they should just because that's how people did in previous generations, being defined by class and the family skill set that you are born into; you can decide who you want to be and create your own little narrative. This does not mean that you have to sell your soul, benefiting only yourself and thus lose your humanity. Nor does it mean that you reject the idea of skilled individuals in a society being masters of their class and contributing together for the benefit of society as a whole, hence the fact that all these tradesmen: the lawyer, the tailor, etc all live in this sewer environment. The part that tops this off, the icing on the cake if you will, is that it does not look down upon the establishment of the farmer (conglomerate) owned supermarket, rather it shows that free individuals can exploit these resources rather than being dictated to by them.

This overall message celebrates the state of contemporary western society rather than being hopelessly and nostalgically conservative. It shows that there are flaws but that this is how we are, we have got to this point by following our hearts, rather than doing what others consider to be the right thing. Just as Mrs Fox condones Mr Fox’s irrational actions that jeopardize the lives of his friends and family; she condones this because she understands that to suppress one's real life is far worse even if it is the safer option.

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