The Wes Anderson Collection, an artful and comprehensive new coffee table book released today, sheds light on the popular auteur's films. Featuring a generous spread of rare, behind-the-scenes photos, an introduction by novelist Michael Chabon, critical essays and much more, the book is a must for Anderson fans.
The book's author, Matt Zoller Seitz, is TV critic for Vulture.com and New York Magazine, as well as editor in chief of RogerEbert.com. But in 1994, when Anderson was living in Dallas and filming Bottle Rocket, his first feature, Seitz was a young film critic with the Dallas Observer.
Bottle Rocket began as a short film featured at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, and later that year, at Dallas's own USA Film Festival. Seitz saw it and wrote a capsule review as part of his coverage, making him, in his words, "the first professional critic to review a Wes Anderson film," though he's quick to add that he didn't discover Anderson--he'd already gotten the attention of influential figures at Sundance.
Still, if you want to know what inspired The Wes Anderson Collection, you have to go back to that capsule review and the two subsequent pieces Seitz wrote on Anderson for the Observer.
"I just thought--well, I was only 25 I guess at the time--but I just felt in my bones that these guys were special," Seitz says by phone from New York. "I've very rarely been so certain of anything as I was back then. I thought, barring some sort of unbelievable series of personal disasters, we're going to be hearing more from these guys, so I might as well write about them now."
The major piece Seitz wrote on them for the Observer was a cover story chronicling the making of Bottle Rocket. "Something may have usurped it, but at the time it was the longest cover story ever published in the Dallas Observer," he says. It was also the last piece he wrote for the weekly before moving to New York to become a pop culture columnist for The Star-Ledger.
Today, Seitz and Anderson are established names. In addition to writing for Vulture, New York Magazine and RogerEbert.com, Seitz was also a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in criticism; Anderson has legions of fans around the world and three Oscar nominations to his name.
They've kept in touch over the years, but their friendship has always been less about what was going on in each other's lives than it was about the movies they'd been watching or the books they'd just read. "It was like a purely intellectual and aesthetic association," Seitz says. "And that's okay by me, I have a lot of friends that are like that."
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It's because of that friendship that The Wes Anderson Collection is the stellar book it is. Seitz conducted interviews with Anderson exclusively for the book, and the filmmaker helped him get ahold of materials it would've been difficult or next to impossible to secure otherwise.
If everything goes as Seitz hopes, similar books on other filmmakers will come along in the future. And of course, Anderson himself has more on the way.
"I think Wes is going to have a very long career," he says. "He could be like Manoel de Oliveira, who's like 98 years, and then one day he keels dead over in his director's chair and that's it."
In a few years, after the world has seen two or three more films by Anderson, Seitz would like to give them the same treatment with a second edition. "If he'll have me," he says.