The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schwartman
Produced by:
Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Scott Rudin, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Jeremy Dawson (co-producer),  Anadil Hossain (co-producer), S.M. Ferozeuddin Alameer (line producer)

To call “The Darjeeling Limited” precious is less a critical judgment than a simple statement of fact, equivalent to saying that the movie is in color, that it’s set in India or that it’s 91 minutes long. It’s synonymous with saying the movie was directed by Wes Anderson. By now — “The Darjeeling Limited” is his fifth feature film — Mr. Anderson’s methods and preoccupations are as familiar as the arguments for and against them. (See an essay in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly for the prosecution and a profile in this week’s New York magazine for the defense.) His frames are, once again, stuffed with carefully placed curiosities, both human and inanimate; his story wanders from whimsy to melancholy; his taste in music, clothes, cars and accessories remains eccentric and impeccable.

And like his other recent films, “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” this new one celebrates a sensibility at once cliquish and inclusive. It reflects the aesthetic obsessions of a tiny coterie that anyone with the price of a ticket is free to join. (Charter members include Owen Wilson, one of the film’s three leading men, and his co-star Jason Schwartzman, who wrote the script with Mr. Anderson and Roman Coppola.)

Precious, in any case, is a word with two meanings, which both might apply to “The Darjeeling Limited.” This shaggy-dog road trip, in which three semi-estranged brothers travel by rail across India, is unstintingly fussy, vain and self-regarding. But it is also a treasure: an odd, flawed, but nonetheless beautifully handmade object as apt to win affection as to provoke annoyance. You might say that it has sentimental value.

Whether sentimental value can be willed into being and marketed with movie studio money is an interesting question. What is beyond doubt is that Mr. Anderson’s main characters and creative collaborators share with him a passion for collecting rare objects and unusual experiences, all of which they handle with exquisite, jealous care...

But humanism lies either beyond his grasp or outside the range of his interests. His stated debt to “The River,” Jean Renoir’s film about Indian village life, and his use of music from the films of Satyajit Ray represent both an earnest tribute to those filmmakers and an admission of his own limitations. They were great directors because they extended the capacity of the art form to comprehend the world that exists. He is an intriguing and amusing director because he tirelessly elaborates on a world of his own making....

Credit: A.O. Scott, New York Times (link)

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