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The Darjeeling Limited

In Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited” three empty, wounded American brothers (Jason Schwartzman, Adrian Brody and Owen Wilson) travel by train across India in the wake of their father’s death hoping to meet up with their mother, who found a new life in Darjeeling.   Gamely, the brothers indulge Wilson’s desire that they try to bond, to reach for Nirvana, but when they finally do have a profound experience it’s completely unexpected.   Schwartzman and Brody are always interesting to watch and Wilson is tolerable enough in the context of Anderson’s pictures (haven’t seen him in much else, though somebody—was it Sara?—told me "Starsky and Hutch" is a cracking comedy).   I liked the subtle way the film handles a dark subtext relating to Wilson’s bandaged head, why every experience seems so precious to him: his wounds are the result of a suicide attempt.

“The Darjeeling Limited” is a comedy; it’s a road movie; but in the end it’s perhaps best described as “a Wes Anderson picture”.   If you like his bittersweet drollery, you’ll like this film—the whip pans and zooms, the tracking shots, the dense, colorful imagery.   Nobody puts slow motion and music together more movingly.   Interesting sound track: Indian music lifted from the soundtracks of Satyajit Ray and Merchant/Ivory films next to the Kinks next to Debussy and Beethoven.

The main feature is preceded by a delightful short film, “Hotel Chevalier”, in which we find Schwartzman in a bathrobe holed up in a suite in France.   A writer, he’s barricaded himself behind stacks of books (the only spine I caught was one by Bruce Chatwin, who wrote about art and architecture, travel and his adventures in Patagonia).   He’s trying to escape memories of Natalie Portman, the reason for his heartbroken convalescence, but she hunts him down, ringing him up to announce she’s on her way up.   He dresses; in his sharp suit and wounded romanticism he might have stepped off the cover of “The Best of Leonard Cohen”.   Later we float on a graceful slow-mo shot from the lovely lines of Natalie’s au naturel flank to a window opening up on a grand vista of the Champs-Élysées—all to the tune of “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)” by Peter Sarstedt.  

Rating: ****

Key to ratings:

***** (essential viewing)
**** (excellent)
*** (worth a look)
** (forgettable)
* (rubbish!!)

- Dec 2, 2007

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