Cannes #76 - “Asteroid City” Review
Updated: Jun 6
Gadzooks! Wes is back, and his latest work Asteroid City is no toad swindle.
After wandering around European hotels, Japanese kennels, and French cafés, Wes Anderson goes back home to his South-West USA, setting his colourful vicissitudes in a petite desert town, in old 1955. The iconic orange rocks of the Monument Valley serve as background, oversaturated and stylised, where “the sun is not hot or cold. It’s clean- and unforgiving”. In other words, John Ford on acids. Here, Anderson presents his own version of quarantine, sequestering his characters in the small town after an UFO interrupts a science convention. But this is not a sci-fi: it’s Wes Anderson picture.
Impeccably scored by devotee Alexandre Desplat, Asteroid City showcases a stellar ensemble cast from Anderson’s stock company, including usual suspects Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum playing a shy alien, and new entry Tom Hanks playing.. Bill Murray?
Of course, it’s no news to praise Anderson’s overwhelmingly beautiful mise-en-scene, with his unmissable symmetry, ever changing aspected ratios, frames within frames, and straight camera movements paralleled by inquisitive eyeballs that shift glances accordingly. This time, he genuinely gifts us with the closest adaptation of a Norman Rockwell painting in motion. This unique style is what contradistinguishes his popularity, but after over 25 years of pastel colours, however, the director found himself constrained by it. That was the case in his previous fatigue, The French Dispatch (2021), a feast for the eyes but shallow at the core. With Asteroid City, he finally finds balance between the episodic structure and a more consistent single narrative, turning the plot into a theatrical, yet intrinsically cinematic, stage production, divided in three acts. He juggles between the colourful play in the desert and its black & white production chronicle, so playful that the players themselves sometimes get confused, breaking the fourth-wall and popping up when they’re not required.
Amidst the cosmic wilderness, I kept on smiling in ecstasy for the whole film. This asteroid will leave a crater in your heart.