Wes Anderson, tone, and the quirky sensibility

Frequent Notes on Metamodernism contributor James MacDowell recently published his second academic essay on the quirky sensibility. His article in The New Review of Film and Television Studies situates Wes Anderson within the ‘quirky’ sensibility of recent American indie cinema, a category encompassing a range of films and filmmakers that emerged in Indiewood during the 1990s and 2000s (e.g. Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Jared Hess, etc.). The ‘quirky’ is often recognisable by its approach to comedy, a visual style that courts a fastidious ‘artificiality’, a thematic interest in childhood and innocence, and – most pervasively – a tone which balances ironic detachment with sincere engagement. Previously defined largely in terms of its aesthetics, the quirky is here firstly identified as one symptom of broader cultural movements concerned to challenge the reputed hegemony of irony within a postmodern structure of feeling. Focusing particularly on the vexed issue of tone, this piece goes on to argue – via a comparison of several quirky films’ tonal strategies – that Wes Anderson’s characteristic approach to irony and sincerity constitutes perhaps the purest expression of the impulses underlying the sensibility. You can read the full article here.

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Notes on Metamodernism, 2014